Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Oil Shale Country Notes
At the beginning of the 1960s successful experimentation was carried out on a sample of Kazakhstan's oil shale in the former Soviet Republic of Estonia. Both domestic gas and shale oil were produced. It was found that the resultant shale oil had a low-enough sulphur content for the production of high-quality liquid fuels.
Beginning in early 1998 and lasting until end-2001, a team funded by INTAS (an independent, international association formed by the European Community to preserve and promote scientific co-operation with the newly independent states) undertook a project aimed at completely reevaluating Kazakhstan's oil shales. The resultant report testified that Kazakhstan's oil shale resources could sustain the production of various chemical and power-generating fuel products.
The research undertaken concluded that the occurrence of oil shale is widespread, the most important deposits having been identified in western (the Cis-Urals group of deposits) and eastern (the Kenderlyk deposit) Kazakhstan. Further deposits have been discovered in both the southern region (Baikhozha and the lower Ili river basin) and the central region (the Shubarkol deposit).
In excess of 10 deposits have been studied: the Kenderlyk Field has been revealed as the largest (in the region of 4 billion tonnes) and has undergone the greatest investigation. However, studies on the Cis-Urals group and the Baikhozha deposit have shown that they have important concentrations of rare elements (rhenium and selenium), providing all these deposits with promising prospects for future industrial exploitation.
The in-place shale oil resources in Kazakhstan have been estimated to be in the region of 2.8 billion barrels. Moreover, many of the deposits occur in conjunction with hard and brown coal accumulations which, if simultaneously mined, could increase the profitability of the coal production industry whilst helping to establish a shale-processing industry.
The recommendations made to INTAS were that collaboration between the project's participants should continue and further research undertaken on a commercial basis with interested parties, as a precursor to the establishment of such an industry.