Production elsewhere making oil shale viable

GOLDEN — Reports of the death of the oil shale industry are grossly exaggerated, a Colorado School of Mines expert said.

Oil shale “is no longer in its infancy,” Jeremy Boak, director of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at Mines, said during the opening of the 33rd annual Oil Shale Symposium here. “It might be in its rambunctious adolescence.”

Worldwide production from oil shale has nearly doubled in the last six years from 18,000 barrels per day of crude oil from oil shale to 35,000 barrels per day, Boak said.

The states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming contain the richest deposits of oil shale in the world. The deposits of northwest Colorado are the most significant of them.

Shell Oil, however, this year announced it was pulling out of its Mahogany Project in Rio Blanco County, citing increased risk and competition. Shell was working on producing oil from deeply buried oil shale with little surface disturbance.

Even though it is ceasing its Colorado operations, Shell is continuing to work in Jordan on a project, Boak said.

Other energy giants, such as Petrobras in Brazil, and Total in France, are continuing to work on oil shale production.

Planned projects and others in the works could account for production increases of as much as 10 percent over the next five to 10 years, Boak said.

Though critics have questioned the amount of water an industry would use, “I think we’ve got a perfectly good estimate of water use,” about 0.4 percent of the water used annually in Colorado each year, Boak said.


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