Gas in the Holy Land: energy prospecting with the Bible as guide
Using the Bible as its guide, Texas-based energy company Zion Oil and Gas has searched for oil in the Holy Land for a decade. The company uses a map of the 12 ancient tribes of Israel and the biblical assertion – “the foot of Asher to be dipped in oil on the head of Joseph” – as an unlikely guide to help it decide where to drill.
(Photo: A worker stands on an oil rig belonging to Zion Oil and Gas in Karkur, northern Israel October 17, 2010/Nir Elias)
Sitting beneath an 18-storey rig in northern Israel, Zion’s CEO Richard Rinberg translates that reference by pointing to an area on the map where the territory of Asher – long and thin and shaped like a leg – once pushed into the land that belonged to Joseph’s sons.
“It’s exactly where we are,” said Rinberg, a good-humoured Orthodox Jew with a background in accounting and a belief that this biblical prophecy is backed by concrete scientific data. Founded by John Brown, a Christian Zionist who believes the Bible prophesied the discovery of oil in Israel, Zion is just one of a pack of energy companies that has spent years, even decades, surveying and drilling around Israel and its territorial waters. Like many, Zion has yet to find commercial amounts of oil or gas.
But faith runs deep in this part of the world, and Zion and its fellow prospectors were emboldened by the discovery last year by Texas-based Noble Energy of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas in the offshore Tamar field. “There’s little doubt that optimism in oil and gas exploration, both offshore and onshore, has increased,” said Rinberg.
Read the full report here. Also check out a letter the company’s chief explorer wrote to the famous Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson in which he discusses his inspiration and how he thinks the Bible and Jewish commentary describe the fundamental principles of modern petroluem geology.
(Photo: A worker walks near an oil rig belonging to Zion Oil and Gas in Karkur, northern Israel October 17, 2010/Nir Elias)
This is an interesting combination, the Bible and oil in Israel. What are the underlying motivations in an industry that is otherwise obsessed with striking it rich. Is the issue making money? Is it making the modern Jewish state energy independent? Or is it the simple pleasure of fulfilling a prophecy?