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BGU Students at Forefront of Israel’s Oil Exploration

BGU Students at Forefront of Israel’s Oil Exploration

October 21, 2015

Natural Sciences, Press Releases

A group of research students at BGU are at the forefront of oil and gas exploration in Israel, providing scientific analysis and support as part of the initial drilling program in the Golan Heights.


The drilling site in the Golan Heights

BGU students are working alongside faculty member Prof. Harold Vinegar, chief scientist of Afek Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of Genie Energy, Ltd., (NYSE: GNE, GNEPRA) headquartered in Newark, New Jersey.

Prof. Vinegar, now on the faculty of BGU’s Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, previously served as the chief scientist of physics at Royal Dutch Shell. He spent 32 years at Shell’s Bellaire Technology Center in Texas working on novel hydrocarbon exploration and production technologies.

“While you are drilling, it is nearly impossible to understand what you are seeing,” explains Prof. Vinegar. “We need the analysis of the materials. The BGU team is providing scientific research support that has cut the information turnover time down significantly and allows the exploratory work to be far more focused.

“In today’s world, we are able to use knowledge to reduce our footprint in nature and to ensure that we work in the greenest way possible.”

This fall, BGU is offering a program in petroleum geosciences, with an emphasis on conventional and unconventional resources, headed by Prof. Vinegar and Prof. Shimon Feinstein. Courses will range from the geochemistry of source rocks and fossil fuels to geophysical methods, petrophysics and rock mechanics, reservoir engineering for geologists, and the environmental implications of petroleum.

Afek has a license to explore for conventional oil over the next three years and preliminary findings have indicated the presence of hydrocarbons. Members of the BGU research team recently visited the NESS 3 drilling site in the Golan Heights at the groundbreaking or “spudding” of the well in the southern Golan Heights.

“We used information gleaned from a 1980s drilling site that was looking for water to decide where to drill,” explained Afek Chief Geologist Dr. Yuval Bartov at the site. He outlined the geological evidence that suggests the ancient volcanic activity of the region may have generated the heat for the production of oil in the late Cretaceous organic-rich period.

“BGU is also exploring possibilities to establish a Center for Petroleum Sciences and the Environment in the near future, based on the existing academic strengths in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences,” says Prof. Jiwchar Ganor, a geologist in the department and dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences.


By supporting a world-class academic institution that not only nurtures the Negev, but also shares its expertise locally and globally, Americans for Ben-Gurion University engages a community of Americans who are committed to improving the world. David Ben-Gurion envisioned that Israel’s future would be forged in the Negev. The cutting-edge research carried out at Ben-Gurion University drives that vision by sustaining a desert Silicon Valley, with the “Stanford of the Negev” at its center. The Americans for Ben-Gurion University movement supports a 21st century unifying vision for Israel by rallying around BGU’s remarkable work and role as an apolitical beacon of light in the Negev desert.

About Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev embraces the endless potential we have as individuals and as a commonality to adapt and to thrive in changing environments. Inspired by our location in the desert, we aim to discover, to create, and to develop solutions to dynamic challenges, to pose questions that have yet to be asked, and to push beyond the boundaries of the commonly accepted and possible.

We are proud to be a central force for inclusion, diversity and innovation in Israel, and we strive to extend the Negev’s potential and our entrepreneurial spirit throughout the world. For example, the multi-disciplinary School for Sustainability and Climate Change at BGU leverages over 50 years of expertise on living and thriving in the desert into scalable solutions for people everywhere.

BGU at a glance:  

20,000 students | 800 senior faculty | 3 campuses | 6 faculties: humanities & social sciences, health sciences, engineering sciences, natural sciences, business & management, and desert research.


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