Oil shale is most commonly defined as sedimentary rock containing organic matter rich in hydrogen, known as Kerogen. When the rock is heated, the organic matter decomposes and releases petroleum-like liquids. Oil shale deposits are widely distributed around the world – some 600 deposits in more than 30 countries are known, with resources of the associated shale oil totaling almost 500 billion tonnes, or approximately 3.2 trillion barrels.
Oil shale deposits can be found in many locations in Israel, but by far the richest, largest and highest grade resource lies in Shfela basin. It is estimated to hold roughly 150 billion barrels of oil (60% of the Saudi reserves!), of which 40 billion barrels are in our license area.
Oil shale can be used for several purposes: to obtain heat by direct combustion (for example, in the generation of electricity); to produce shale oil, and as a source of other valuable chemicals.
The oil shale industry dates back to late 17th century Scotland. Oil shale pyrolysis was developed in France, where in 1832, a method for producing lighting oil was realized. During the 19th century oil shale thermal processing factories also operated in Australia, the United States, Brazil, Germany, and Scotland. During the 20th century oil shale processing factories were built in several countries, including China and Israel. However, later most of them were closed, largely due to the rapid development of crude oil industry.