Energy policy — oil shale: Environmental effects catalogued

A picture named colonyoilshaleproject.jpg

Here’s a recap on Thursday night’s meeting of the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, from Dennis Webb writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

…the level of disturbance where any development might take place would be significant, said Jeremy Boak, director of the industry-funded Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the Colorado School of Mines. Boak said oil shale development would have less of a region-wide impact on the land than has been seen with local natural gas development. That’s thanks to the world-class richness and unmatched density of the region’s oil shale resource, which has underground concentrations of as much as a million barrels of oil per acre, he said. But where any oil shale development might occur, “you will for a time essentially have scraped off the surface if you’re doing a process like Shell’s,” Boak said…

Boak said the biggest environmental challenge for shale development is water — how much is used and how quality is affected.

More coverage from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson). From the article:

He [Jeremy Boak, head of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the School of Mines] said one company, Red Leaf Resources in Utah, had recently completed tests on a shale-oil extraction process that involved heating up the rock in place, underground, and piping out the kerogen…

He noted that Shell, which is one of the corporate sponsors of his institute, is working on a process involving the stripping away of the surface, followed by the drilling of numerous bore holes to be used to heat the “extraction zone” to a temperature of some 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Other bores are drilled around the extraction zone, to be used to freeze the area around the zone to prevent the oil and other contaminants from flowing into nearby ground water. Once the oil has been extracted, he said, the process calls for the injection of water into the bore-holes that turns to steam and scours out the area once permeated by the kerogen. That water is then to be treated and recycled, he said…

“But it will be pretty disruptive of the surface,” he said of that technology, which would involve in-situ plants that would move from one zone to another, scraping topsoil and drilling holes. He said reclamation would be easily accomplished using the same topsoil that had been removed prior to the process. Boak indicated that some of the new technological processes are said to consume relatively little water, but conceded that studies are needed to determine how much water is available for such uses, and what might be the effects of oil shale extraction on area water supplies and water quality. In addition, he said, there are potential impacts to the general ecology of the area that must be identified, as well as the socio-economic effects on the region’s communities.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Leave a Reply