|Oil shale territory.|
The Grand Junction (Colorado) Sentinel reports that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has dropped ExxonMobil’s application for a 160-acre lease for oil-shale research, development and demonstration. (Earlier post.)
According to the report, the BLM spokespeople present at an Open House on the project did not know the exact reasons ExxonMobil’s application was dropped, although some attendees at the event speculated that it was because of a lack of specificity on how it would recover nahcolite, used to make baking soda and other products. BLM guidelines do not allow the development of one mineral at the expense of another.
Oil shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock containing kerogen—a solid organic precursor to oil and gas—from which oil and gas can be obtained through the application of heat. There are two basic approaches to processing oil shale: mining the rock and heating it in a surface retort, and heating the rock in the ground, to then pump up the resulting oil (in-situ).
There are now three companies remaining seeking the federal leases for research, development and demonstration (RDD) projects, all using in-situ technologies:
Shell Frontier Oil and Gas. Shell uses electric heaters to heat the shale. The company said that one lease is to est an advanced heater design, another to verify the process for nahcolite recovery, and the third to continue with its current oil shale test. (Earlier post.)
Chevron, with one lease application, wants to drill and fracture the shale to create a zone of shale rubble that it would then heat and treat with chemicals. Chevron proposes that its fracturing process would cut the required underground temperature in half, and allow for quicker production.
EGL Resources, with one application, plans to circulate steam through the shale zone.
BLM has been holding a series of open houses on the projects, in addition to seeking public scoping comments earlier in the year.
According to Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), which prepared the report on scoping comments, about 4,735 individuals, organizations, and governmental agencies provided comments or suggestions on the scope of the programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), approximately 4,650 of those comments from individuals.
More than 350 people registered their attendance at the public meetings in January 2006; 63 individuals in attendance provided oral or written comments, or both, during the meetings. Of the remaining scoping comments that were submitted, about 94% were submitted by mail and 6% were submitted via the online comment form.
In the report, ANL organized the comments into the following categories: environmental concerns, socioeconomics, resource and technology concerns, stakeholder involvement, cumulative impacts, mitigation and reclamation, policy, land use planning, alternatives, and other issues.
The most frequently stated comments were concerns and questions about the amount of water that OSTS (oil shale and tar sands) development technologies would require and how the technologies would impact surface and groundwater. (Earlier post.)
Specifically, commentors observed that the processes would consume large amounts of water in a region where water resources are very limited. Many commentors questioned specifically where the water would be obtained from and who would lose water in order to provide needed water to OSTS development. It was stated that other industrial development would be limited because there would be no remaining water resources.
Another major concern was the amount of energy required to power the OSTS development. Commentors requested that the PEIS address the sources of power for each project and the numbers and locations of required new power plants.