Geologist Reports Major Oil Find in Israel; Firm Stays Mum

Genie Oil executive says discovery in northern Israel points to 'significant' quantities.

Tess Scheflan

A geologist for the U.S. energy company Genie Energy told Israel’s Channel 2 television late on Tuesday that the company had found a major oil reservoir on the Golan Heights, but the publicly traded Genie had yet to report any finding itself.

“We’ve found an oil stratum 350 meters thick in the southern Golan Heights,” said Yuval Bartov, the chief geologist of, Genie’s Israeli unit, Afek Oil & Gas. “On average worldwide, strata are 20 to 30 meters thick, and this is 10 times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities.”

Effi Eitam, Afek’s chairman, was unavailable for comment but Genie’s shares were up 4.3% to $10.09 in early trading in New York yesterday.

Bartov has conducted three exploratory drillings on the Golan in recent months; Bartov’s statement referred to the first of them, dubbed Ness 5. The company has been studying wireline logging data collected from the site over the last few months.

If in fact Afek has found petroleum in the circumstances described by Bartov, it would be a significant discovery. Israel uses about 100 million barrels of petroleum a year, and a reservoir of that size would easily meet the country’s needs for years to come.

In July, Afek competed drilling at Ness 3, which is about five kilometers from Ness 5. The company at the time reported that preliminary analysis indicated the presence of hydrocarbons in vertical sections in both locations.

Genie is controlled by the U.S. millionaire Howard Jonas and its shareholders include the media magnate Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild. Its Afek unit is conducting exploratory drilling program of up to 10 wells under a three-year exploration license granted by Israel’s Energy and Water Ministry in 2013.

In contrast to the offshore exploration that has yielded Israel vast reserves of natural gas in waters as deep as six kilometers, Afek’s drilling is being conducted at a low cost of just $2 million per drilling. Financing has come to date from private sources and is sufficient to complete the program Afek is committed to.

Oil exploration is likely to encounter legal problems as the Golan is regarded as occupied Syrian territory. But Eitam told TheMarker last month that he wasn’t concerned.

“We are operating through the power of attorney of the state, which has had control of the Golan for more than 40 years,” said Eitam, a retired brigadier general and rightist politician. “Syria right now is at war.”

Genie also operates an oil shale project near Beit Shemesh, which has encountered fierce opposition from environmental groups concerns about environmental damage, including to sources of groundwater.