Haifa Company Transforms Rocks to Fuel

An Israeli company has patented a way to turn oil shale rock into high quality oil and natural gas - a project that may bring jobs to the Negev and low-cost energy to the Jewish state.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 16:27

The “Hom-Tov” process, brainchild of A.F.S.K. – Hom Tov CEO Yisrael Feldman, involves mixing the bitumen residue left over after refineries produce crude oil together with oil shale rock.

Refinery production leaves a minimum residue of ten percent bitumen – also known as asphalt – per barrel of crude oil. The substance is used today only for road work or waterproofing materials because it requires too much additional processing to be used for conventional fuel, but is a key component in the “Hom Tov” process.

According to Hebrew University Professor Ze’ev Aizenshtat, an energy resource expert, the method also results in a dry fuel byproduct that can be used to power the “Hom Tov” production plant, as well as provide additional electricity for the national grid.

Feldman told ISRAEL21c that his method was first introduced in 1992 as a way to extract combustible organic material which could then be used to produce oil at a fraction of the current refinery cost. In 1994, then-Energy Minister Moshe Shahal ordered further investigation in the hope that researchers could come up with a way to produce quality oil at rock-bottom prices. Shahal’s hopes were soon realized.

A Boon for the Negev
Backers of the project are now considering placing a production plant in the Negev, where oil shale is plentiful and has already been unearthed by phosphate plants that must dig past the rock in order to reach the lower minerals they seek.

The rock itself contains approximately 20 percent organic material and has been used as a direct fuel for more than a century in countries such as Brazil, China, Estonia and Russia.

The proposed Negev plant, depending on its size, will be able to produce up to 30 percent of Israel’s energy needs for the next 70 years, at an initial construction cost of $700 million.

Ultimately, the plant could produce oil that would cost only $25 per barrel, half the cost of today’s crude – a financial bonanza for the Haifa-based company. “We won’t see that price for oil again,” says Feldman.

There are other benefits that may ultimately be derived from the process as well. Aizenshtat says the “Hom Tov” method may be used in the future to recycle industrial refuse such as tires, plastics and manufacturers’ waste from pesticide and fertilizer plants.

The price of the oil produced from refuse may be different, but the end result is the same – alternative fuel at a fraction of today’s prices.

“The world is looking for a replacement for oil supplies,” observes Shahal, an attorney who now serves as the project’s legal representative.

The company is already in the process of applying for construction and mining permits. If approved, the plant is expected to begin full production by 2011.

To view the article on the ISRAEL21c website, click here.