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Energy Ministry extends license to search for Arava oil by a year

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

An illustrative photo of sand dunes in the Arava region of southern Israel, near the Red Sea city of Eilat, on August 30, 2019. (Mila Aviv/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of sand dunes in the Arava region of southern Israel, near the Red Sea city of Eilat, on August 30, 2019. (Mila Aviv/Flash90)

The Energy Ministry’s petroleum commissioner agrees to extend by a year a license to search for terrestrial oil in the Arava Desert in southern Israel.

The license to explore in a 275-square-kilometer (106,000-square-mile) tract called Aya was awarded in 2019 to Arbel Oil and Gas Exploration and Shafir Engineering and Industry.

It was set to expire this month.

Local residents, backed by the Society for the Protection of Nature, had hoped that the company’s failure to operate according to the license timetable would put paid to the plan.

In August, Energy Minister Karine Elharrar announced a ban on any new terrestrial oil exploration.

The only other existing terrestrial oil exploration license, held by Shafir Engineering and Industry for the Ahinoam field in southern Israel’s Negev Desert, is due to expire in May.

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