JERUSALEM, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- An Israeli oil and natural gas company estimates there may be enough reserves in the occupied Golan Heights to make the country self-sufficient in energy.
Yuval Bartov, the chief geologist for Afek Oil and Gas, told Channel 2 News in Israel preliminary data show a column of oil found in the Golan Heights is about 10 times larger than the global average.
"We are talking about significant quantities," he said. "The important thing is to know the oil is in the rock and that's what we now know."
The Israeli Ministry of Energy and Water Resources awarded a drilling permit to U.S.-Israeli company Genie Energy for territory in the southern Golan Heights in 2013. The company at the time estimated the reserve potential in a 150-square-mile southern portion of the Golan Heights as "significant."
Israel annexed the southern part of the Golan in 1981, though the United States and most of the international community don't recognize the claims to sovereignty. Syria still claims the Golan and demands its return.
The Israeli government had said it was eager to open offshore and inland territory up for oil and gas exploration. Two fields in the Mediterranean Sea -- Tamar and Leviathan -- are considered among the largest natural gas fields in the world.
Bartov said there's a significant amount of excitement about the oil potential in the Golan Heights.
"We came here thinking maybe yes or maybe no and now things are really happening," he said.