Energy policy — oil shale: Water requirements for production

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Here’s a recap of a February forum hosted by the Rocky Mountain and Northwest Colorado Farmers Unions and the Bookcliff Conservation District, from Mike McKibbin writing for the Rifle Citizen Telegram. From the article:

Dan Birch, deputy general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District went over the results of a water demands study released late last year by the Colorado, White and Yampa River basin water roundtable. It looked at the combined estimated water needs for coal, natural gas, oil shale and uranium over the next several decades…

Direct and indirect water demands for the oil shale industry could reach 152,000 acre-feet in the long term…

Still, Birch said he did not think water availability would limit future energy production, including oil shale. “Energy interests already have an abundant amount of conditional water rights to use,” he said. “If they have none, they have the resources to acquire new sources. And those rights will be acquired from agriculture.” Birch said the river district would rather see those rights acquired through new appropriations and perfection of an estimated thousands of cubic feet of conditional water rights and hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of conditional storage rights already held by the industry. “I think there may be an opportunity somewhere in the mid-range of these estimates to work with the industry on a water project to provide water not only for the industry, but for agricultural, municipal, environmental and other needs,” Birch said. Any new storage project would not be built on the main stem of any major river in Colorado, Birch said…

Electrical production needs for the in situ processes rise to near 19,000 megawatts in the long-term, high-production scenario, he added. “To compare, the Craig generating station, which I think is the largest coal-fired plant in Colorado, has a 1,300-megawatt capacity,” Birch said. In the mid-range estimate, Birch said it could be possible for Shell to generate their own electricity, using natural gas produced on site.

In situ processes also require an estimated 1.5 barrels of water for every barrel of oil produced, while the underground mining and retort process previously used by Exxon and others in the last oil shale boom used 2.9 barrels of water per barrel of produced oil, Birch said. Shell, which has tested an in situ process using electrical heaters and a “freezewall” to protect groundwater for the last several years in Rio Blanco County, might only require one barrel of water per barrel of oil, he added. Those figures assume a long-term, high-production rate of 1.5 million barrels of oil a day for the in situ process, Birch pointed out…

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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