Israeli company discovers oil at drilling site near Dead Sea

Israeli company discovers oil at drilling site near Dead Sea

An Israeli company has discovered a small amount of oil at a drilling site near the Dead Sea, raising hopes that the Jewish state could one day join its regional neighbors as a petroleum producer.

Initial tests have found that the site would yield between 100 to 150 barrels daily, said Eli Tannenbaum, geologist for the Ginko oil exploration company. While this is minuscule by global standards _ No. 1 producer Saudi Arabia produces 9 million barrels a day _ Tannenbaum said there are signs that larger amounts of crude are nearby.

“There is high pressure and there was a flow yesterday, there was a free flow … All this is evidence that there is oil there,” Tannenbaum said.

He said also found a hydrocarbon, or oil, trap about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) north of the original site. “It appears there will also be oil there in much higher quantities,” Tannenbaum said.

Ginko, a private company, is performing quality tests on the newly discovered oil, but plans to begin drilling in the second location in the coming months, he said.

Ginko abandoned the original drilling site in 1997 when oil prices were about $15-$20 (?12 to ?16) a barrel. It revisited the site recently because oil prices have quadrupled since then, Tannenbaum said.

Amir Mor, an Israeli energy expert, said hundreds of thousands of abandoned oil fields worldwide have been revisited in recent years due to the spike in prices, which can make it profitable to produce even a few hundreds barrels of oil.

However, he said, it was unlikely the new Dead Sea location would yield more than a few hundred _ possibly a few thousand _ barrels a day. Strategically, this is meaningless to Israel _ which consumes about 220,000 barrels of oil daily, Mor added.

Israel has a long history of oil prospectors _ many of them inspired by religious messages _ who have come up empty. The country has produced only 20 million barrels of oil in the last half-century _ less than what the Saudis produce every three days.

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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