- Oil shale reserves in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming are estimated to contain 800 billion barrels of oil.
- Oil shale is among the dirtiest feedstock for oil on the planet in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.
- Enefit holds a research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) lease in the Uintah Basin of Utah adjacent to the Colorado border. If they prove commercial viability, the stage is set to expand operations to encompass thousands of acres for mountaintop removal style strip mining and onsite processing.
- The immense amounts of water needed for processing oil shale would come from the already drought stressed and overused Colorado River Basin.
We can’t let this industry take hold in Utah.
Enefit’s South Project:
Enefit’s “South Project”, as proposed, would involve the strip mining of over 9,000 acres of land and the construction and operation of a 50,000 barrel per day oil shale retort facility. Enefit intends to strip-mine about 28 million tons of rock a year over thousands of acres of high-desert habitat. It will also construct a major production facility to bake the rock at high temperatures. The half-square-mile processing plant, about 45 miles south of Dinosaur National Monument, will turn pre-petroleum stones into refinery-ready oil. This project requires, among other things, a right-of-way (ROW) across BLM land for utilities, including a water pipeline that will pipe over 10,000 acre-feet per year out of the Green River.
2018: Enefit requests a right-of-way (ROW) from the BLM for utilities to service the “South Project”—19 miles of water supply pipeline, 8 miles of natural gas supply pipeline, 10 miles of oil product line, 29 miles of power lines, and 5 miles of upgrading to Dragon Road.
2018: The BLM issued a decision to permit the right of way. This right of way through public land is in effect a subsidy to the oil shale industry, decreasing expenses tremendously and making the likelihood of demonstrating commercial viability greater.
February 2019: Conservation groups issued a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for approving rights-of-way for pipelines and power lines that pave the way for the nation’s first commercial oil shale development. See the press release here.
In the news:
Groups Plan to Sue Feds Over Utah Oil-Shale Project– Mark Richardson, Public News Service – UT, Feb 28 2019.
Decision on shale project right of way may be made in early July– Dennis Webb, The Daily Sentinel, May 22 2018.
For more on the project and how to comment, visit go.usa.gov/csa9j.
FROM CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
SALT LAKE CITY— The Bureau of Land Management announced this week that it is moving toward allowing dirty oil shale development that could be a double whammy for the environment, unleashing nearly a half a billion tons of greenhouse gases and consuming vast amounts Colorado River basin water. It would be the first commercial oil shale production facility in the United States.
The Bureau said that on April 8 it will release a draft environmental impact statement for the “Enefit American Oil Utility Corridor Project.” It would allow Enefit, an Estonian company, to build water, oil, gas and electric transmission across federal public land in Utah to enable oil shale mining on state on private land. Enefit hopes to process up to 1.2 billion barrels of kerogen oil — one of world’s most carbon-polluting fuels — with estimated lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of up to 450 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, about the same as 100 coal-fired power plants emit in a year.
“President Obama was right when he said in his State of the Union that ‘we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources’,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney at Earthjustice. “It’s time BLM got the memo and stopped wasting taxpayer money subsidizing companies that would foul our atmosphere and endanger our planet, and our future.”
“The Interior Department is working against President Obama’s climate goals here,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Enabling the development of one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels is the opposite of climate leadership. The administration should abandon this project now.”
“We don’t need to take on this environmental disaster that comes with developing the dirtiest fuel on the planet — oil shale,” said Rob Dubuc, senior staff attorney at Western Resource Advocates. “Renewable energy innovations and improvements in energy efficiency make this fuel unnecessary to develop. BLM should not advance this project.”
The draft environmental impact study comes only months after the United States and countries around the world committed, at the Paris climate negotiations, to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Reaching that goal will require dramatic reductions in carbon pollution — the key driver of climate change — and leaving the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Enefit’s mining facility would expand development and use of one of the world’s highest carbon fuels.
“There is more energy in a similarly sized baked potato than in a chunk of oil shale,” said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “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. The unequivocal answer is no. The time has come to turn our backs on the carnival barker’s promise that oil shale will be answer to our nation’s energy needs.”
“It is true that Enefit has made the mining and production of oil shale work for the energy needs of Estonia. However, Estonia also produces more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than other European countries, including Russia,” said John Weisheit with Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper. “What Estonia has, that Utah does not, is ample water supplies to process that oil shale. Ironically, the similarity between the governments of Utah and Estonia is their subsidy of dirty energy projects with public money.”
The proposed facility will be located in the Uinta Basin, approximately 12 miles southeast of Bonanza in Uintah County, Utah, near the Green and White Rivers. The project is designed to develop oil shale mining and a shale oil production complex, at full build-out producing about 28 million tons of raw oil shale ore rock per day and 50,000 barrels per day of refinery-ready shale oil from the Green River Formation.
“Oil shale is a thirsty industry,” said Anne Mariah Tapp with the Grand Canyon Trust. “The Colorado River Basin is already looking at up to a 27 percent decrease in April to July flows due to climate impacts. At a rate of up to four barrels of water per barrel of oil, Enefit’s project poses an unacceptable threat to limited Colorado River Basin water supplies. Both in terms of carbon footprint and water demands, the West’s water future would be drastically compromised by this oil shale program.”
“The legacy of the Green River will live or die on the decisions we as a country make here and now,” said Lauren Wood with Green Riverkeeper. “The Green River watershed cannot survive as a vibrant source of life in a desert if the BLM continues to view the landscape it runs through as a source of death and climate devastation. It’s time to close this chapter of our shared history where we strayed into such extreme and dangerous forms of energy; that isn’t our legacy, it’s our nightmare.”
“This oil shale project would be another significant source of pollution in an area that just can’t take any more,” said Dr. Brian Moench with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “During the drilling boom of 2013 the air pollution in the Uinta Basin was literally off the charts, as much as would be expected from 100 million cars, eight times more cars than in all of Los Angeles. It would be unconscionable to allow anything that would make that even worse.”
“A century’s worth of failed efforts has demonstrated that trying to turn rocks into oil is a fool’s errand, but somehow Enefit expects a different result this time,” said Bobby McEnaney, a senior analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The last thing this administration should be considering is a proposal that amount to fossil fuel alchemy, particularly when cleaner energy sources are readily available.”
The Bureau of Land Management’s webpage for the project is here.
Try as they might, tar sands and oil shale will never be profitable without using massive amounts of public money to prop up their business models. With low oil prices and a very risky political climate, these upstart companies are having an impossible time securing investors to move forward with their projects.
We are winning, slowly, determinedly, and with lots of fun, by creating a risky business atmosphere for these foolish ventures. Lawsuits slow the process, direct action slows the progress, oil prices fluctuate, and now–with the recent announcement by US Oil Sands that they are drastically slowing down construction of the PR Springs tar sands mine–we have some room to breathe.
But, while the companies lay off workers and bide their time, leaving vast areas in the process of being strip mined, they are also working in our County Governments, in UDOT, with SITLA, and with the CIB to take millions of dollars of public money and spend it on infrastructure that these failing startup companies need. Right now, we need to challenge all of these institutions. We need our money to go towards locally driven, community controlled alternative energy projects, public transportation, and food security, not wasted on a dying, speculative industry that would change our climate beyond imagination.
Tar Sands and Oil Shale Projects on hold or significantly slowed due to “bust”:
Ambre Energy Oil Shale – Colorado (sold to Red leaf Resources and now on hold)
What they’re up to the in the meantime (points of intervention):
Bookcliffs Highway – a proposed $3 million/ mile highway connecting the P.R. Spring Tar Sands Mine and Red Leaf Resources to I-70. They currently have no way to get product to market, thus the projects are not viable. The Six County Infrastructure Coalition is trying to secure public money for this project from the State. The Grand County Transportation Special Service District will host a presentation about this on February 11th at 6 p.m. at the Grand Center, 182 North 500 West.
Six County Infrastructure Coalition – “The Coalition’s mission is to plan infrastructure corridors, procure funding, permit, design, secure rights-of-way and own such facilities. Operation and maintenance of these assets will likely be outsourced to third parties,” taken from the SCIC website. This is an industry-sponsored spin on local government. They function to funnel public money to benefit a few private corporation in the oil, gas, tar sands, fracking, potash, coal, and oil shale industries.
MCW is working to obtain “full production” permits from the state to move into continuous production mode and is in the process of implementing several Utah Government recommendations with regards to trucking activities on and off its lease site at Asphalt Ridge.
Enefit – Must soon give up its federal research lease with the state or prove it is making headway towards commercial production. Enefit is going through a BLM process to build a utility corridor to the site which will deliver water, power and natural gas to the Enefit operation and move crude out through a 16-inch pipe.
Red Leaf Resources – Closed up shop, but says they’ll be in full scale production by 2017 with production by 2018.