Posts Tagged ‘shale oil’

Before it Starts: Keep Tar Sands and Oil Shale Mining out of he U.S.A. is a Project of Living Rivers. Living Rivers & Colorado Riverkeeper is a Utah non-profit corporation recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Living Rivers formed in 2000 to create public awareness and action toward restoring the biological integrity of the Colorado River, which is the most regulated river in the United States.

(Associated Press) SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah company has cleared a final hurdle to develop the first commercial oil shale mine in the nation.

The Utah Division of Water Quality on Friday issued a groundwater permit to Red Leaf Resources, which plans to develop a shale mine on state land in the Uinta Basin in eastern Utah.

Red Leaf hopes to become the first company to extract oil in commercial amounts from shale that exists in abundance under Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Oil-shale deposits in the three states represent a potentially huge, unconventional energy resource, but the trick is turning it into oil. Oil shale is rock that contains kerogen, which must be subjected to high heat before it produces liquid.

Companies have been trying to figure out how to do that commercially in the U.S. with limited environmental effects.

Red Leaf CEO Adolph Lechtenberger said in a statement that its initial, small-scale demonstration project will produce more than 300,000 barrels of oil and “prove our clean oil shale technology works on a large scale.” The company has about 600 million barrels available under its Utah leasehold.

Sage Grouse RebelsBut environmentalists expressed skepticism, saying groundwater disturbance is just one of many environmental drawbacks posed by extraction of the Uinta Basin’s rich oil shale and tar sands resources.

The ore will be strip mined, environmentalists said, and developers will consume more resources to convert hydrocarbon pre-cursors kerogen and bitumen into liquid oil.

“They take the skin off the planet and are not putting it back. It’s going to be a moonscape,” said John Weisheit of Moab-based Living Rivers. “They are destroying the watershed, the near-surface aquifers. It’s a water system that makes the ecosystem what it is.”

State regulators believe the lands do not have much groundwater and note they are requiring Red Leaf to maintain monitoring wells to determine how the project affects the water system.

“We based our permit decision on the absence of water in the extraction process, the lack of an aquifer and low permeability of the rocks underlying the test site,” DWQ director Walt Baker told The Tribune. “We plan to keep a close eye on the project to make sure the process works as promised.”

Red Leaf also plans to develop below-grade ovens to heat the ore mined.

The company’s process “extracts oil with lower energy consumption, lower emissions, lower water use and less environmental impact than any oil shale technology deployed in the world today,” Lechtenberger said.

Environmentalists also criticized Red Leaf’s reclamation plan. “It allows them to keep the earth ovens in place and cover it with top soil,” Weisheit said.

Swift begins construction of shale-oil well - The Durango HeraldCounty waiting before considering new regulation

By Emery Cowan, The Durango Herald

Swift Energy began construction on western La Plata County’s first shale-oil well last week after clearing the final hurdle of county land-use approval.

The Houston-based oil and gas company is working on road improvements and well-pad construction with plans to have a rig in place by mid-August, said Bob Redweik, Swift’s corporate manager for health, safety and environment.

Swift’s drilling plans have captured the county’s attention. Many speculate that if successful this wildcat well could herald a boom in shale development that, so far, has passed over this corner of Colorado.

New shale drilling techniques and technologies have changed the landscape of energy production across the country, allowing producers to reach untapped reserves of oil and natural gas. At the same time, these methods have raised concerns about potentially new and unknown impacts to water, air and land.

Concerns about shale drilling, especially potential impacts to groundwater from hydraulic fracturing, has drawn crowds of residents to county commissioner and community meetings. Many argued for the county to enact a moratorium on shale drilling to better study the practice before allowing it in the county.

Commissioner Gwen Lachelt has repeatedly pressed her fellow commissioners to consider changing the county’s gas and oil regulations to address shale development specifically.

As of now though, commissioners have decided to take a wait-and-see approach until the county has assessed the production and impacts of Swift’s well.

“All eyes will be on Swift,” Lachelt said.

Opponents say “the last thing we need is to destroy our public lands.”

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

Environmental groups filed a protest this week of a Bureau of Land Management plan to allocate more than 800,000 acres in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming for oil shale and tar sands development.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the Grand Canyon Trust, Living Rivers and the Sierra Club sent the protest Monday to BLM protest coordinator Brenda Hudgens-Williams.

The proposal would make available nearly 700,000 acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming for research and development of oil shale, and about 130,000 acres in Utah for activities related to tar sands.

A news release about the protest said such development would release “intensive greenhouse gas emissions, hasten Colorado River drying, threaten wildlife and increase local and regional air pollution.”

“The climate crisis is worsening every day. The last thing we need is to destroy our public lands for carbon-intensive oil shale and tar-sands mining,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Last month, the BLM made public a plan that dramatically scaled back a Bush administration plan to allow leasing on rangelands in the three states.

The 806,000-acre recommendation — about 1,250 square miles — was one-third of what the Bush administration had proposed to lease.

BLM Colorado State Director Helen Hankins said the compromise proposal takes a responsible cautious approach to resource development.

“Today’s leases demonstrate our continued commitment to encouraging research and development that will help fill in some of the existing knowledge gaps when it comes to technology, water use and potential impacts of commercial-scale oil shale development,” Hankins said in a prepared statement issued Nov. 9 with its recommendation and a 6,245-page environmental impact statement. “To date, technological and economic conditions have not combined to support a sustained commercial oil shale industry, and this plan lays a strong foundation to explore oil shale’s potential.”

A 30-day protest period ended Monday, after the environmental groups filed their 94-page protest.

For more information on the BLM plan, click here.

Protest Filed Over 800,000-acre Oil Shale Plan in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming

Oil Shale and Tar Sands Development Would Worsen Global Warming and
Harm Public Lands, Colorado River, Wildlife

From the Center for Biological Diversity:

For Immediate Release, December 11, 2012

Contact: Taylor McKinnon, (928) 310-6713

DENVER— The Center for Biological Diversity on Monday filed a protest challenging a Bureau of Land Management plan allocating 806,000 acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming for oil shale and tar-sands development. If it’s carried out, the development would unleash intensive greenhouse gas emissions, hasten Colorado River drying, threaten wildlife and increase local and regional air pollution.

“The climate crisis is worsening every day. The last thing we need is to destroy our public lands for carbon-intensive oil shale and tar-sands mining,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center. “This plan’s water use and greenhouse gas emissions would be ruinous for public land, the already-drying Colorado River, endangered species and efforts to curb global warming.”

The BLM plan stems from a settlement of litigation brought by environmental groups in 2009 that challenged a 2008 Bush administration plan to open 2 million acres of public land to oil shale and tar sands development. Today’s protest challenges an environmental impact statement and proposed amendments to 10 land-management plans for violating the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and other laws.

The protested plan allocates more than 676,000 acres of land to oil shale development and more than 129,000 acres to tar sands. It subjects oil-mining projects to additional review not included in the Bush administration’s plan. While it reduces developable acres from the Bush administration’s 2008 plan, it increases allocations from what was proposed in a 2012 draft environmental impact statement. Acres allocated for oil shale development increased by 46 percent since the draft plan; acres for tar sands increased by 42 percent.

Producing oil from shale or tar sands can be dirtier than coal given the energy required to extract the oil. The production of every barrel of shale oil sends 50 percent more CO2 into the atmosphere than the production of one barrel of crude oil. Because mining would deplete and pollute water and destroy large areas of land being mined, development would likely affect numerous endangered species like Mexican spotted owl, Canada lynx and four endangered fish species in the Colorado River — Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail chub.

The Center is dedicated to ensuring that atmospheric CO2 pollutant levels are reduced to below 350 parts per million, which leading climate scientists warn is necessary to prevent devastating climate change. Further development of greenhouse gas-intensive energy sources, including oil shale, tar-sands and coal-fired power plants is incompatible with achieving this goal. If greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately reduced, the atmospheric carbon dioxide level will rise to approximately 500 ppm by mid-century, escalating wildlife extinctions, catastrophic weather and ecosystem changes and tragic human suffering.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.