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Queensland Premier Puts 20-Year Moratorium on Oil Shale Development

Queensland (Australia) Premier Anna Bligh has placed a 20-year moratorium on the development of oil shale in the state. The announcement immediately blocks the further development of a planned demonstration plant over the McFarlane oil shale deposit in the Whitsunday region. Bligh said she would not allow the environment to be put at risk while the technology for extraction of the resource was still not proven.

Currently only one lease exists to mine oil shale, in Gladstone. The Australian state will permit no new oil shale mines, and the state government will begin a two-year review to determine if oil shale deposits can be used in an environmentally acceptable way. The Premier said the decision was effective immediately and would be legislated in the coming months.

Our environment must come first. That’s why we are putting a 20-year moratorium on all mining activities, bulk sampling and exploration over the McFarlane deposit in the Whitsunday region. This stops immediate plans to dig up approximately 400,000 tonnes of rock for resource testing from this world famous landscape.

While the development of shale oil has potential as an energy source we will not allow it until we can be assured that it can be extracted and processed without harming the environment. This is particularly the case for the McFarlane deposit—15 kilometers south of Proserpine—which is located right on the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

—Premier Anna Bligh

The 400,000-tonne project now blocked was part of an assessment by Queensland Energy Resources (QER) of the commercial viability of a proposed demonstration plant at McFarlane. QER also owns the Stuart shale oil processing plant at Gladstone, which it decided to decommission in 2004 after acquiring the site from Southern Pacific Petroleum.

Earlier in August, QER announced its selection of Paraho II technology to develop its shale oil deposits rather than the older Alberta-Taciuk Processor (ATP) used in the Stuart demonstration plant. QER had decided the ATP could not be scaled up sufficiently, whereas it believes the Paraho II technology can be.

The Paraho Oil Shale Project was a privately financed program launched in the 1970s in the US to prove the Paraho retorting process and hardware on oil shale at Anvil Points, Colorado.

Oil shale refers to sedimentary rocks that contain solid combustible organic matter called kerogen. Under a heating process, the kerogen can be decomposed to release hydrocarbons that can be captured to produce synthetic crude oil and combustible gas. Queensland has approximately 90% of Australia’s known shale oil reserves and the vast bulk are located between Bundaberg and Proserpine. Australia has shale oil reserves in Queensland estimated as high as 30 billion barrels.

Minister for Mines and Energy Geoff Wilson, said small-scale demonstration plants using shale oil from the Stuart resource at Gladstone would still be allowed but only if companies can gain licences and prove their technology passes the strictest environmental standards.

There are existing mining tenures over the Gladstone shale deposit already and those rights will remain in effect. The owner of the lease at Gladstone is currently examining the commercial viability of a demonstration plant using new shale oil processing technology.

Over the next 2 years, the government will review the technology and if it stacks up economically, technologically and environmentally we will work with industry to see if it could have a broader application further down the track. If the objectives of commercial feasibility and environmental acceptance can be met Queensland could eventually become a major producer of non-conventional oil to help meet national and international demand.

—Geoff Wilson

Comments

John

Fascinated to see your proposal to burn lead, Henry. I suppose Bussard's inertial electrodynamic fusion device might do it, though I think deuterium, or even boron and hydrogen, might be easier to use.
As for the shale oil, I naturally support producing it (as you've guessed, I don't live anywhere near the proposed mine or extraction plant.)
I do believe that the underground gasification of coal sounds as though it should cause less environmental disruption. Of course, there has been an effort to stop this, which appears to have been by the coal seam methane people. My guess here would be that with the proposed liquefaction plant at Gladstone to sell it overseas, they anticipate the Queensland price will rise to three times what it is at present. The electricity producers("privatised" government companies), and of course consumers like me, will naturally scream bloody murder, and the rush to use ucg syngas which is considerably cheaper than even the present Queensland price of csm, will be on.
The csm boom only started when the Labor government got into power and decreed that the more greenhouse friendly methane must be used instead of nice, cheap, dirty coal, so the csm producers know the value of having the government on side.

Larry M. Southwick

The Donwside of Kyoto

I note here that Queensland has instituted a 20 year moratorium on the development of oil shale. The reasoning being to save the state from man-made global warming by cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions.

I'm thinking the economic cost of such a move is a huge mill stone to carry on a leap of faith aboard a straw horse. Here's why.

Carbon Dioxide
Mother Nature has installed a huge number of "Carbon Dioxide Sequestering Units" around the Earth. These consume carbon dioxide by the uncounted billions and billions of tons. She calls them "trees".

Some little things called leaves and grass are her willing accomplices. They use this nasty old carbon dioxide to make chlorophyl (which I learned about maybe in my third year or so in school), which then makes for green leaves and grass.

I don't think Mother Nature would take kindly to man's contrived efforts to curtail the supply of that necessary nutrient from her forests, farms and prairies. She might even consider that a "Brown Movement".

Green House Gases
It seems to me from maybe a bit later in school I learned that the principal constituent of green house gases is water. Now, one of Queensland's other concerns is the current three year drought.

So I would have imagined the inhabitants of that state might have welcomed the "onslaught" of green house gases. That might end their drought. After all, when was the last time anyone observed a drought in a greenhouse?

What is the color of your footprint
One of the favorite images of the "Greenhouse Gases Are Bad" movement is to characterize generation of carbon dioxide as a black footprint. I think they have that all wrong.

To me it seems that anything that makes leaves green and keeps them wet might better be viewed as a Green Footprint. One covered with leaves and bits of grass. Sort of the thing left behind by Tolkien's Hobbits or his Ents (tree monsters) when they walked down the road.

Other images
Another image from the Green House Movement, championed by their Chief Scientist Al Gore, is that of a rapidly melting Antartic ice sheath. However, from what I read this is simply not the case, in fact that ice sheath is larger than it has ever been.

Not quite large enough yet to bump into Tasmania off of Australia's south shore, but at least one would have thought someone living in Australia and tapped into this movement would be aware of this embarrassing fact.

Other embarrassing facts that unravel the "proof" of man-made global warming are erroneous predictions of Greenland's ice cap melting and slipping off (thereby one presumes offending the world's sense of propriety by revealing its derrier). That won't be happening, the models are all wrong. Another myth was that polar bears were dying off. Happily, current reports from Hudson's Bay are that the reverse is happening. Polar Bear population is greater than it has been in 25 years.

The Right Stuff
One suspects that the science and engineering that came up with all these predictions were not of the "right stuff". Hardly the caliber of stuff that could have led to discovering the DNA double helix, microbes, viruses, deciding phlogiston vs. oxygen, determining that all adepts are inept, atomic physics, Pluto or the cause of and cure of diseases like polio, diabetes, and so on. Nor of the engineering stuff that invented microchips, sent man into space (where we find plans are afoot to create a greenhouse on Mars to allow man to survive there), came up with cell phones, and brought us HDTV's.

Note too that a lot of "the stuff" that is used in greenhouse gas predictions is also "the stuff" which weathermen use. I have trouble planning picnics around what the weatherman says. And they want us to shut industry down, diminish fuel supplies, curtail jobs, send manufacturing over to China, raise the cost of living and alter our lifestyles based on the same stuff?

Kyoto
The enhanced concerns about greenhouse gases arises from Australia's recent signing of the Kyoto Protocol. However one views the ability of man to change such massive components of the Earth's atmosphere, simply put "the evidence" is neither conclusive nor indicative of either way. The predictions, a few of which were mentioned above, have consistently been either abjectly wrong or of such little demonstrable impact as to be specious.

But of one thing we can be sure about Kyoto, the evidence is abundantly clear that it economically favors those who do not comply with it - such as China. So our choices are either (a) we can all sign on and all be uniformly poor, (b) have some sign and some not sign, in which case wealth flows towards the non-signers, or (c) let non-political science guide our hand (the one holding the pen), in which case I dare say none will sign on.

One of the lessons that the Luddite experience in the early 1800's taught is that wholesale banning of the benefits of science and industry was not the answer. The textile mills that the Luddites arose over (their inefficient, labor intensive jobs were being replaced by high volume machinery) provided more cloth, cheaper cloth, greater variety cloth, and made that cloth available to everyone. The search for new technology (a great buzz-word on everyone's lips today) will always have the same effect - those clinging to the old technology (if non-competitive) will be left behind. Social ills may still require the politician to resolve them or ease the transition (retraining?), but the debate over real technical issues is never well served by delusional science, hype and mindless activism.

In short myths, even those embedded into legislation (and protocols), are still fairy tales.

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