The reported oil discoveries in Israel are meaningless in terms of global oil production

Posted on July 18, 2013

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Kerogen production

An article in the economics section of the leading Swedish broadsheet newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) has the headline, “Enormous oil discoveries in Israel” and has raised a number of questions such as, “Is this something that will delay Peak Oil significantly?” The background material to the article is a segment from Radio Sweden’s (SR’s) economic news from 15 July. Let’s look at the text that DN published that is a poorly abridged version of what exists on SR’s website: [translated below]:

“At least 150 billion barrels of oil lie hidden in the shale layers in the area between Jerusalem and the Palestinian enclave Gaza. But there are an additional 20 or so discoveries in that nation and the World Energy Council, a global energy organisation, estimates that there may exist up to 250 billion barrels of oil in Israel. That is nearly as much as the large-scale producer Saudi Arabia is thought to have.”

“- But it will take a long time before this comes onto the market. So we are not talking about anything that will happen in the next year or two”, said Ulf Svahn, CEO of the Swedish Petroleum and Biofuel Institute, to SR”

“In addition to oil they have also found gas. Israel, that has recently been forced to cut back on its military expenditure, can therefore invest more in its defence. Furthermore, there are concerns that the goal of a society that can produce energy without fossil fuels will be delayed, something that can have consequences for the environment and the Earth’s temperature.”

The major error that SR (and so DN) makes is that they compare what are known as “resources” of shale-based oil in Israel with Saudi Arabia’s “reserves” of conventional oil that are given as around 260 billion barrels. From these reserves Saudi Arabia has a production target of around 12.5 million barrels per day. The discovery in Israel is not flowing oil that can move through geological formations.

In an article in Time World published on 30 April 2013 one can read more about the Israeli discoveries. The discoveries were made nearly 4 years ago in August 2009. Regarding oil production from these, Relik Shafir made the following statement, “We think that within a decade we can get 50,000 to 100,000 barrels a day”. If one reads the article in Time World it is clear that this shale-based oil cannot be compared with the “shale oil” that is currently being produced in the USA:

The product is called oil shale, and unhelpfully so, because that’s far too easily confused with shale oil, which is something else altogether (shale oil exists in liquid form, but in tiny amounts that must be loosened before being harvested; it’s also known as tight oil). The better term for the form Israel’s oil takes may be kerogen, the name for the organic matter embedded in rock — any rock, not necessarily shale — that, were it buried a few hundred meters deeper in the earth, would have melted into petroleum. What IEI proposes to do is to warm it up right where it is, by drilling hundreds of holes into it, then slowly heating them up, through stainless steel cables unspooled to a depth of 300 m (990 ft.), where the oil-bearing rock stands. After about three years, the oil will be seeping out and can be pulled to the surface.

Different types of oil

I usually explain the different types of oil with the figure above and I use the descriptor Kerogen Oil, a term that the industry how now begun to use. Currently, Estonia is the world’s largest producer of Kerogen Oil, and use it as fuel in powerplants. In Sweden we have trialled extraction of this oil in Kvarnstorp. In my book Peeking at Peak Oil there is an image that shows the world’s production of Kerogen Oil during the 20th century. This shows how unrealistic it is to compare this type of production with that from Saudi Arabia.

Kerogen production

Regarding the statement by Ulf Svahn, CEO of the Swedish Petroleum and Biofuel Institute, I understand his statement as a commentary on the gas discoveries that have been made in Israel, but an uninformed reader of the DN article would probably believe that Ulf Svahn was expressing an opinion on oil.
Regarding Peak Oil the discoveries in Israel are completely insignificant.

(Swedish)
En artikel i Dagens Nyheters avdelning för ekonomi med rubriken ”Enorma oljefyndigheter i Israel” har väckt ett antal frågor och en är ”Är detta något som kommer fördröja Peak Oil nämnvärt?” Bakgrundsmaterialet till artikeln är ett inslag i Sveriges radios ekonyheter från den 15 juli. Låt oss titta på den text som SR har lagt upp på deras hemsida (till hemsidan):

”Minst 150 miljarder fat olja ligger gömda i skifferlagren i området mellan Jerusalem och den palestinska enklaven Gaza. Men det finns ytterligare ett tjugotal fyndigheter i landet och World Energy Council, en världsomspännande energiorganisation, räknar med att det kan finns uppemot 250 miljarder fat olja i Israel. Det är nästan lika mycket som storproducenten Saudiarabien anses förfoga över.”

Det stora misstaget som SR gör är att man jämför det som man kallar för ”resurser” skifferbasserad olja med Saudiarabiens ”reserver” av konventionell olja som anges till cirka 260 miljarder fat. Från dessa reserver har Saudiarabien ett produktionsmål på cirka 12.5 miljoner fat om dagen. Vad det gäller fynden i Israel är det inte flytande olja som kan rör sig i de geologiska formationerna.

I en artikel i Time World från den 30 april 2013 kan vi läsa mer om fyndigheterna i Israel. Man gjorde fyndigheten för nästan 4 år sedan i augusti 2009. Vad det gäller produktionen så gör Relik Shafir följande uttalande “We think that within a decade we can get 50,000 to 100,000 barrels a day”. Om vi läser vidare i artikeln i Times så inser vi att den skifferbaserade oljan inte kan jämföras med den ”skifferolja” som just nu utvinns i USA:

The product is called oil shale, and unhelpfully so, because that’s far too easily confused with shale oil, which is something else altogether (shale oil exists in liquid form, but in tiny amounts that must be loosened before being harvested; it’s also known as tight oil). The better term for the form Israel’s oil takes may be kerogen, the name for the organic matter embedded in rock — any rock, not necessarily shale — that, were it buried a few hundred meters deeper in the earth, would have melted into petroleum. What IEI proposes to do is to warm it up right where it is, by drilling hundreds of holes into it, then slowly heating them up, through stainless steel cables unspooled to a depth of 300 m (990 ft.), where the oil-bearing rock stands. After about three years, the oil will be seeping out and can be pulled to the surface.

Different types of oil

Jag brukar förklara olika typer av olja med denna figur och använder beteckningen Kerogen Oil, en benämning som industrin nu börjat använda. Idag är Estland världens största producent av Kerogenolja och i Svergie har vi försökt att utvinna denna olja i Kvarnstorp. I min bok Peeking at Peak Oil finns en bild som visar världens produktion av Kerogenolja under 1900-talet. Ni förstår säkert nu hur orealistiskt det är att jämföra detta med Saudiarabien.

Kerogen production

Vad det gäller uttalandet från Ulf Svahn, VD för Svenska Petroleum och Biodrivmedel Institutet, så uppfattar jag hans uttalande som en kommentar till de gasfyndigheter som man gjort i Israel, men om man läser artikeln lite slarvigt kan man tro att Ulf Svahn uttalas sig om oljan.

Vad det gäller Peak Oil kommer fyndigheterna i Israel att vara helt utan betydels.

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