In order to maintain Israel’s energy security for the foreseeable future, the
government must refrain from exporting its newfound natural gas supply, as well
as ensure that these reserves are not the country’s sole source of electricity,
experts said at a forum on Sunday.
The conference, titled “Energy
Security and Energy Strategies in Europe and Israel,” was held on Sunday at the
Sde Boker campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, organized jointly by the
university’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research and German political
Researchers from both Israel and
Europe gathered to discuss ways to guarantee that both will be able to maintain
sustainable electricity supplies in an era in which oil resources are being
depleted – and are increasingly expensive. Some of the key elements suggested
were renewable energies, nuclear energy and with regard to Israel in particular
– natural gas and oil shale.
“For many, many years we were almost totally
dependent on importation,” said Dr. Shlomo Wald, chief scientist of the Energy
and Water Ministry. “Now we are facing a new era – where for the first time we
have the chance to get some energy independence, which is a crucial element in
the energy security.”
Wald was referring specifically to natural gas, of
which 750 billion cubic meters have already been found in the Tamar and
Leviathan basins, with an expected 450 more in the vicinity.
people say we are the new ‘natural gas princess,’” Wald said. “Are they right?”
Not entirely, he argued.
Russia, for example, has around 44,000 billion
cubic meters of natural gas and Iran has about 29,000, while Algeria, Egypt and
Qatar all have in the thousands or tens of thousands.
”So first of all,
be modest,” Wald said. “We have only 1,200 billion cubic meters, we shall
never be a player of the global market.”
Therefore, he argued, rather
than exporting the gas so that sellers can make money faster, the gas should
stay within Israel and help maintain the country’s energy security for the next
few decades. By 2040, the country will consume about 600 billion cubic meters,
and even if explorers locate the rest of the 1,200 billion cubic meters, it will
be exhausted completely by 2060, according to Wald.
“If we do not export,
we should at least have a time to develop industry and get some security of
supply for half a century,” he said.
Exporting the gas would be nothing
less than a “disaster,” in Wald’s opinion “It’s a mistake, it’s against energy
security,” he said. “It’s against energy independence.”
that within Israel, natural gas will need to make up a significant chunk of the
energy market at this point – as renewables will never exceed 30 percent of the
total energy market in the near future. Israel’s current electricity usage is 60
terawatt-hours per year, with demand increasing at 2 terawatt-hours per
While the prospective amount of renewable energy available is about
75 terawatthours per year, its conceivable installation rate is only about 0.9
terawatt-hours per year, he said.
Although the newly abundant natural gas
supply will be crucial to maintaining Israel’s energy independence and security,
certain precautions must also be taken, particularly if the government intends
to supply 80% of the country’s electricity through natural gas by 2020,
according to Dr. Amit Mor, CEO of the Eco Energy consulting firm.
base a strategic commodity like electricity on just one pipeline is a major
problem,” Mor said. “That’s why there is a need to insure the supplies of
In an area that is well within the reach of Gaza’s rockets,
the pipeline to Tamar and Leviathan must have multiple entry points as well as
backup fuel sources, he said. An LNG regasification unit (liquified natural gas
in a floating storage and regasification system) that is currently in the works
is crucial, and it should remain a permanent backup source rather than simply a
temporary solution to bridge energy gaps, Mor argued.
market’s security could also benefit from a shift in fueling transportation with
natural gas and renewable energy, and in 20 to 30 years, Israel will also need
to consider constructing nuclear energy facilities, he added.
approach – to use nuclear power – will be necessary all over the world, and is
much less dangerous than the carbon dioxide currently being released en masse by
fossil fuels, said Dr. Ari Rabl, a consultant on environmental impacts and a
former senior scientist at the Center Energétique et Procédés of the École des
Mines in Paris.
While nuclear waste can be managed safely by future
generations, they cannot do anything about the carbon dioxide being pumped into
the air, Rabl explained.
The cost of a nuclear accident – a rare
occurrence when proper precautions are taken – is about .22 euro cents per
kilowatthour, while the cost of air pollution and global warming is about 1.40
euro cents per kilowatt-hour, he said.
Another way to help secure
Israel’s energy security would be creating oil from the Shfela region’s copious
amounts of oil shale, which can now be heated in situ using a process that does
not harm the aquifer, according to Dr. Harold Vinegar, chief scientist of Israel
Energy Initiatives – the company responsible for the current oil shale
Natural gas can also be used to heat the shale, in a
process where every $1 of methane used creates $23 worth of product, Vinegar
argued. Meanwhile, Israel has about 250 billion barrels worth of oil shale in its
underground reserves, he said.
“There’s an amazing synergy between the
discovery of the vast amounts of natural gas in Israel and the even more vast
amounts of oil shale in Israel,” Vinegar said. “The combination of abundant
natural gas and oil from oil shale can make Israel completely energy independent
and we should be able to do this in this decade.”
Whichever methods are
undertaken to bolster Israel’s – and the Europe’s – energy supplies and
security, simple conservation methods will not be enough to satisfy
ever-increasing needs, Rabl argued.
“The best we can hope for is to more
or less compensate the natural growth in demand and the growth in the economy
[through conservation],” he said. “I don’t think we can get a dramatic reduction
due to energy conservation.”