Analysis: Israel sees shale replacing oil
By LEAH KRAUSS UPI Energy Correspondent
HAIFA, Israel, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- The Israeli process for producing energy from
oil shale will cut its oil imports by one-third, and will serve as a guide
for other countries with oil shale deposits, according to one company.
A.F.S.K. Hom Tov presented its oil shale processing method on Tuesday,
outside Haifa and just down the street from one of the country's two oil
"Because the patents for this process belong to (the company), Israel is the
most advanced in the world in the effort to create energy from oil shale,"
Moshe Shahal, a Hom Tov legal representative and a former Israeli energy
minister, told United Press International.
Shahal estimated that the company's Negev Desert facility would begin
full-scale production in three to four years, while other countries with oil
shale deposits will need five to six years to reach production.
Oil shale is limestone rock that contains hydrocarbons, or fossil fuels --
about 20 percent of the amount of energy found in coal. Using the rock as a
raw material and coating it with bitumen, a residue of the crude oil
refining process, the company can produce natural gas, fuel, electricity, or
a combination of the three.
Older technologies squeezed the hydrocarbon material out of the rock, with
extremely high pressure and at high temperatures.
According to Professor Ze'ev Aizenshtat, an oil shale expert, the Hom Tov
process is more environmentally friendly than other /methods of converting
oil shale into energy. It also allows for more flexibility in the kind of
fuel produced, produces less waste and operates at lower temperatures than
Though the production process may be more environmentally friendly, the end
product is still a fossil fuel, similar in quality to a high-grade diesel
when in liquid form.
Israel's shale is low-quality, however -- its "caloric value" is only about
15 percent, while shale in other countries yields 20 percent, according to a
report in BusinessWeek earlier this year. As a result, more Israeli shale is
needed to produce the same amount of fuel.
Hom Tov isn't worried, however. "This is a much lighter (substance) than
what gradually comes out of an oil field," Aizenshtat told UPI, as Hom Tov
company owners Israel Feldman and Shimon Kazansky posed for photographs with
their fingers dipped in a plastic pitcher of the stuff.
Because fewer refining processes are necessary with oil shale than with
crude oil, the final product is a higher quality fuel at a lower price,
The company estimates it will consume 6 million tons of oil shale and 2
million tons of refinery waste each year, for an annual production of 3
million tons of product.
It would cost about $17 to produce a barrel of synthetic oil at the Hom Tov
facility, meaning giant profit margins in a world of $45 to $60 per barrel
crude. Yearly earnings are forecasted to be between $159 million and $350
million, Shahal said.
Israel has 15 billion tons of oil shale reserves. Jordan, on the other hand,
has about 25 billion tons, and the oil shale in Jordan is of higher quality.
Shahal met with Jordanian Energy Minister Azmi Khreisat earlier this year,
to discuss setting up a plant there.
The United States also has a giant reserve, mostly in Colorado, and Hom Tov
sees potential for its patented process there.
The process, which Feldman and Kazansky developed in the mid-1990s, has
lately attracted some high-powered investors, including Ofer Glazer -- the
third husband of Israel's richest resident, billionaire Carnival Cruise
heiress Shari Arison.
"It's a kind of dream" to invest in Hom Tov, Glazer told UPI. "It's the type
of investment where Israel needs the product, and it creates jobs."
Glazer added that it will be good for Israel not to be dependent on
"external sources" for its energy needs, saying that "those countries aren't
exactly friendly (to Israel.)"
As for his stake in the project, Glazer said he preferred "not to get into