Holy energy independence, Batman! It remains to be seen, but if this is true, it's huge, as InstaPundit says.
A couple of ironies here:
- The extraction technique is discovered by an Israeli, from the only land in the Middle East without any oil reserves;
- If it pans out, the discovery may weaken the economic power of the other Middle Eastern state who have sworn the destruction of Israel.
A close associate who is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at a major western research university says:
Unfortunately, they don't give much of a hint as to the attributes of their methodology, other than it is a lower-temperature process than traditional techniques. The economic claim seems a bit optimistic to me, but it is hard to know without more details on their process. We have had one or two individuals . . . who have made similar claims (on the order of $15/bbl) for their processes, and it gets into the newspapers and excites the venture capitalists, but when approached on the topic I have advised caution. There are many things that can be missed in an economic analysis (even unintentionally); in particular, when individuals are "working out the numbers" and are not really experienced at doing such thing for large scale processes.One major item that . . . may be less of an issue in Israel, is the opposition of environmentalist groups. All of these low-cost methods are based on extracting the shale and then processing them through some sort of furnace or retort. Although details were not given, the Israeli process appears to also require extraction of the material. In most cases, this would involve strip-mining, which is highly unpopular in the U.S. Even promisses of reclamation, with gorgeous photographs of reclaimed regions that are more picturesque than before, does not quell the fire.I attended a recent . . . workshop . . . that included attendees from as far away as Tokyo . . . . Amid various presentations on the nature of the fuel resource, problems unique to processing this fuel, emerging technologies, economic issues, etc. was a presentation by an attorney representing [an envirnomentalist group] that could be summed up in one sentence: "It is really bad - don't do it." In addition to environmental concerns, he discussed the economics at length to demonstrate that in his view, it makes no sense to develop such an industry in [the West]. Although he conceded that there are between 12-20 billion barrels of oil locked up in oil sands . . . , his analysis indicated that only 1/5 of those reserves were recoverable and therefore it is not worth pursuing. From my perspective (as a Chemical Engineer), if true, this just means we have a technology shortage and thus an opportunity to develop new methods (as the Israelis appear to have done).Another presentation . . . focused on a range of issues that would need to be addressed, such as the observation of a Mexican Spotted Owl in a canyon nearby one of the reserves, which therefore qualified the area as a habitat for an endangered species.Anyway, these are the kinds of things we face in the U.S. that may or may not be as pronounced in Israel (I am guessing much of the populace is concerned about more immediate threats to their well-being).