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Friday, November 10, 2006

Israelis saving the world. As usual.

Great news, as an Israeli company has devised an extremely efficient way to extract fuel from oil shale - at a cost of $17 a barrel.
HAIFA, Israel, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- The Israeli process for producing energy from oil shale will cut its oil imports by one-third, and will serve as a guide for other countries with oil shale deposits, according to one company.

A.F.S.K. Hom Tov presented its oil shale processing method on Tuesday, outside Haifa and just down the street from one of the country's two oil refinery facilities.

"Because the patents for this process belong to (the company), Israel is the most advanced in the world in the effort to create energy from oil shale," Moshe Shahal, a Hom Tov legal representative and a former Israeli energy minister, told United Press International.

Shahal estimated that the company's Negev Desert facility would begin full-scale production in three to four years, while other countries with oil shale deposits will need five to six years to reach production.

Oil shale is limestone rock that contains hydrocarbons, or fossil fuels -- about 20 percent of the amount of energy found in coal. Using the rock as a raw material and coating it with bitumen, a residue of the crude oil refining process, the company can produce natural gas, fuel, electricity, or a combination of the three.

Older technologies squeezed the hydrocarbon material out of the rock, with extremely high pressure and at high temperatures.

According to Professor Ze'ev Aizenshtat, an oil shale expert, the Hom Tov process is more environmentally friendly than other methods of converting oil shale into energy. It also allows for more flexibility in the kind of fuel produced, produces less waste and operates at lower temperatures than other methods.

Though the production process may be more environmentally friendly, the end product is still a fossil fuel, similar in quality to a high-grade diesel when in liquid form.

...Because fewer refining processes are necessary with oil shale than with crude oil, the final product is a higher quality fuel at a lower price, Aizenshtat said.

The company estimates it will consume 6 million tons of oil shale and 2 million tons of refinery waste each year, for an annual production of 3 million tons of product.

It would cost about $17 to produce a barrel of synthetic oil at the Hom Tov facility, meaning giant profit margins in a world of $45 to $60 per barrel crude. Yearly earnings are forecasted to be between $159 million and $350 million, Shahal said.

Israel has 15 billion tons of oil shale reserves. Jordan, on the other hand, has about 25 billion tons, and the oil shale in Jordan is of higher quality. Shahal met with Jordanian Energy Minister Azmi Khreisat earlier this year, to discuss setting up a plant there.

The United States also has a giant reserve, mostly in Colorado, and Hom Tov sees potential for its patented process there.

The unfortunate equation is that petrodollars equals terror, and anything we can do to make Middle Eastern oil irrelevant is a huge win for the security of the free world.