One of the nation's first commercial-level oil shale operations advanced on Thursday when the Bureau of Land Management posted a draft environmental impact statement for utility rights of way.
The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that what could be one of the nation's first commercial-level oil shale operations advanced on Thursday when the Bureau of Land Management posted a draft environmental impact statement for utility rights of way serving Enefit American Oil's mine that would extract and process kerogen-bearing rock in the Uinta Basin.
The Estonia-based firm seeks to develop a 15-mile corridor across public land to deliver power, natural gas and water to its plant and pipe up to 50,000 barrels of crude oil per day to an existing pipeline for delivery to Salt Lake City refineries.
In a coordinated response, the environmental community attacked the entire premise of a federal agency proposing to facilitate development of oil shale, viewed as a particularly "dirty" fossil fuel packing an oversize carbon punch on the climate.
"We know that burning oil shale in a giant oven can produce shale oil; the question that needs to be asked is whether proceeding with this type of project makes any sense in a carbon-constrained 21st century," said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "The unequivocal answer is no. The time has come to turn our backs on the carnival barker's promise that oil shale will be the answer to our nation's energy needs.
The Green River Formation under Utah, Wyoming and Colorado harbors most of the world's kerogen, an immature hydrocarbon locked in rock that must be heated to release oil. While more than 1 trillion barrels of oil are theoretically present in this formation, the Utah Geological Survey figures about 77 billion barrels in Utah's corner is economically recoverable. This resource is located closest to the surface in the Uinta Basin, where proponents intend to mine seams up to 60 feet thick.
Enefit and Red Leaf Resources, which has developed an oil shale mine and subgrade processing "capsules" several miles to the west, are poised to be the first in America to tap this hydrocarbon bounty in commercial quantities. But both projects have been slowed and scaled back in the face of the slump in oil prices, and both face fierce opposition from climate activists.
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