Oil shale corporation suffers tech setback

American Shale Oil Corp. is back at the drawing board, working on a device that can heat oil shale far below the surface.

AMSO’s heater is back in Canada, where crews are working to reverse mechanical failures, Vice President Roger Day said Friday.

“We are remanufacturing,” Day said, “We’re going through another cycle.”

AMSO’s is one of several efforts in western Colorado aimed at producing oil from oil shale without disturbing hundreds of feet of overburden.

AMSO has seen setbacks as it has moved forward on research on a 160-acre test plot in northwest Colorado.

Company officials are undeterred even though “we’re developing electrical heater technology instead of what we wanted to focus on,” Day said.

AMSO is a joint project of Total, the French petroleum producer, and Genie Energy, which in 2011 split off from parent company IDT Corp., a global telecommunications provider.

IDT founder Howard Jonas remains chairman of the board of IDT and Genie.

Previous efforts to lower the heater have resulted in frustration for AMSO, but it also has made advancements in related technologies, Day has noted.

In this case, the difficulties are internal, meaning that issues such as expansion of heated rock far below the surface played no role, Day said.

Company officials are looking to late June or early summer to reinstall the heating element and begin the experiment anew, Days said.

AMSO holds one of six existing research, development and demonstration leases issued by the federal government. Five of those leases are in Colorado and one is in Utah.

Crews from Edmonton, Canada, who pulled the heater out this spring “had the illusion that Colorado was a lot farther south” than it is, Day said.

The state’s spring storms “caught them by surprise and they were down buying jackets.”


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