The hunt for oil in the Golan Heights continued into a new stage on Tuesday as a round of testing began at the Ness-3 drilling site.
In July, the Afek Oil and Gas firm confirmed the presence of hydrocarbons at the site but this round of testing aims to find out what type of oil is found in Ness-3's subsurface area. This will also help indicate whether it will be economically profitable to develop the site further.
The process is expected to take several weeks to carry out, according to Afek, which is owned by the New-Jersey-based firm Genie Energy Ltd., and added that it will be carried out by "leading companies in the field of oil exploration" as well as well as a team of observers from the Northern District Committee, which partly manages the area's drilling permits.
Drilling work at Ness-3, near the Bnei Yehuda industrial area, concluded in July 2015. Preliminary test results announced on July 29 indicated the presence of hydrocarbons in the vertical drilling sections.
Since February 2015, Afek has completed drilling at four sites and is in the process of moving on to a fifth. On February 1 of this year, it received a renewed permit from the Northern District Committee to continue to explore for conventional oil at up to 10 sites in a 39,500-hectare (97,606-acre) zone south of Katzrin.
Environmental groups such as Adam Teva V'Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) have voiced their concern on several occasions, saying that petroleum in the region was likely “tight oil” which could require non-conventional drilling procedures such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In January, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel tried to prevent Afek from receiving an extension on their drilling permit, arguing that oil works on the Golan Heights may harm the public interest and pose a threat to environmental and water resources.