Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Oil Shale Country Notes
Egypt (Arab Republic)
Oil shale was discovered during the 1940s as a result of oil rocks self-igniting whilst phosphate mining was taking place. The phosphate beds in question lie adjacent to the Red Sea in the Safaga-Quseir area of the Eastern Desert. Analysis was at first undertaken in the Soviet Union in 1958 and was followed by further research in Berlin in the late 1970s. This latter work concentrated on the phosphate belt in the Eastern Desert, the Nile Valley and the southern Western Desert. The results showed that the Red Sea area was estimated to have about 4.5 billion barrels of in-place shale oil and that in the Western Desert, the Abu Tartour area contained about 1.2 billion barrels.
The studies concluded that the oil shale rocks in the Red Sea area were only accessible by underground mining methods and would be uneconomic for oil and gas extraction. However, the Abu Tartour rocks could be extracted whilst mining for phosphates and then utilised for power production for use in the mines. Additionally, although in both areas power could be generated for the in-place cement industry, the nature of the shale as a raw material would not be conducive to the manufacture of high-quality cement.
In view of the depletion of Egyptian fossil fuel reserves, a research project was implemented during 1994-1998 on the 'Availability of Oil Shale in Egypt and its Potential Use in Power Generation'. The project concluded that the burning of oil shale and its use as fuel for power production was feasible, but only became economic when heavy fuel oil and coal prices rose to significantly higher levels. Many recommendations of a technological and environmental nature were made and economic studies continue. A 20 MW oil shale pilot plant for power generation in Quseir was recommended as part of a first step towards the exploitation of Egyptian oil shale.