A massive oil reserve has been discovered in the Golan Heights by an Israeli energy company, regional news outlets reported Wednesday. The find by Afek Oil and Gas, confirmed to be 10 times larger than the average oil field worldwide, could boost Israel’s relatively young oil industry and meet domestic energy demands.
"There is enormous excitement,” Yuval Bartov, the oil and gas chief geologist for Afek, told Channel 2 News, according to Globes. “It's a fantastic feeling. We came here thinking maybe yes or maybe no and now things are really happening."
Israeli oil companies were searching for oil around the clock, with little success until the latest discovery. It was first announced last month, but the size of the find was only confirmed recently. Afek Oil and Gas is a subsidiary of American company Genie Energy. Since Israel’s founding, companies have drilled 530 exploratory wells in search for oil, but few of them have turned up commercially viable product, the Times of Israel reported.
The recently discovered oil reserve was expected to provide billions of barrels of oil. However, given the current low price of oil, extraction will have to be inexpensive in order to make the field profitable.
The reserve would bolster Israel’s oil industry. Noble Energy, an oil and gas exploration and production company based in Houston, announced the discovery of a gigantic natural gas field in the Mediterranean in 2010. Israel has since met much of its domestic needs and has also signed agreements to export its oil, including to neighboring Egypt.
The newly found reserve is not without controversy. Numerous environmental groups and residents of the Golan Heights are bitterly opposed to the drilling, expressing fears that it could damage the region’s landscape. When Afek first began exploration in the area late last year, environmentalists filed a petition against drilling that ultimately reached the High Court of Justice.
The international community considers the Golan Heights occupied territory, further complicating oil production. Much of the Golan Heights was captured from Syria during the war in 1967, and Israel’s sovereignty over the region remains contested.