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Israel Stops Issuing New Licenses For Oil Shale Exploration

Israel’s energy and environment ministries have agreed that the minister of energy will not grant new licenses to companies to explore for and mine oil shale in the country, due to environmental concerns, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Tuesday.

As Israel aims to move to more environmentally friendly energy sources, it will no longer issue new licenses for oil shale because of the ecological and environmental impact of such mining projects, the two ministries said.

Israel is believed to have deposits of oil shale—a rock containing significant amounts of organic material in the form of kerogen—lying under 15 percent of its territory.  

The country, however, will not be extending a license to Rotem Amfert, a unit of Israel Chemicals, for oil shale exploration at Mishor Rotem after 2021, according to the energy ministry.

The ministry will also review two already issued licenses based on the new environmental criteria, it said.

Rotem Amfert, which operates a small power plant at Mishor Rotem with the oil shale it is mining from the nearby area, sought a few years ago permission to explore what it believed were huge oil shale resources in the Negev area, but has met stiff opposition from environmentalists.

Currently, Israel is pinning its hopes in the energy sector on its huge offshore natural gas resources.

The Leviathan gas field—discovered in 2010—together with other fields discovered offshore Israel in the past decade such as Tamar, Karish, and Tanin, is expected to help Israel become energy independent.

A senior official at Noble Energy said at the beginning of December that Leviathan was set to begin gas supply to the local market within three weeks and to start exports to Egypt and Jordan shortly after that, in a major milestone for the energy landscape in Israel and the Eastern Mediterranean.  

Noble Energy announced first gas at Leviathan on December 31, while Israeli natural gas exports to Egypt started in the middle of January.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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