Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Oil Shale Country Notes
Exploitation of oil shale in Morocco occurred as long ago as 1939, when the Tangier deposit was the source of fuel for an 80 tonnes/day pilot plant which operated until 1945. A preliminary estimate of this resource has been put at some 2 billion barrels of oil in place.
During the 1960s two important deposits were located: Timahdit in the region of the Middle Atlas range of mountains (north central Morocco) and Tarfaya in the south west, along the Atlantic coast. The total resource has been estimated at 42 billion tonnes for the former and 80 billion tonnes for the latter. Oil in place has been estimated at 16.1 billion barrels for Timahdit and 22.7 billion barrels for Tarfaya.
Morocco's total resource is estimated at some 50 billion barrels in place, a level which ranks the country amongst the world leaders in respect of in-place shale oil.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM), with the assistance of companies in the USA, Europe, Canada and Japan, undertook research and testing of more than 1 500 tonnes of Timahdit and 700 tonnes of Tarfaya oil shale. Within Morocco, some 2 500 metric tonnes of Timahdit oil shale were tested in an 80 tonne capacity pilot plant. In 1985-1986 the Moroccan experience led to ONHYM developing its own process called T3, a semi-continuous surface retorting method based on the utilisation of two identical retorts operating in tandem according to two modes: retorting mode and cooling mode.
The technical and economic feasibility studies have resulted in Morocco acquiring a large amount of information - a database which can be used for future projects. With the current need to look at developing alternative sources of liquid fuels, the ONHYM has stated that any pilot plant should be followed by a demonstration phase during which the commercial evaluation of by-products should also be undertaken.