Survey of Energy Resources Interim Update 2009
SER 2007 version >Oil Shale Country Notes update
Queensland Energy Resources (QER) spent the period 2005-2007 testing indigenous Australian oil shale at a pilot plant in the U.S. State of Colorado. QER successfully demonstrated that, by using the Paraho Process, it could operate an oil shale-to-liquids business in Queensland.
Following QER's acquisition of the Stuart oil shale project from SPP, the company planned to replace the rotating horizontal Alberta-Taciuk Processor (ATP) retort, with the vertical Paraho retort. However, in August 2008 the Queensland Government announced that it had issued a 20-year moratorium on the development of QER's other oil shale resource, McFarlane. The McFarlane deposit, located some 15 km south of Proserpine in central Queensland, is considered a strategically important resource with the potential to supply in excess of 1.6 billion barrels of oil.
At the time of the State Government's legislation the company was carrying out pre-feasibility testing of the McFarlane resource and although development of the Stuart deposit is not precluded, the moratorium has caused QER to re-examine its plans for the future of both the Stuart and the McFarlane projects.
The policy relating to the development of the oil shale resource has changed in the light of the discoveries of huge oil reserves in deep and ultra-deep water, and latterly the pre-salt.
The oil shale facilities within Brazil are currently operating at near design capacity: 3 800 b/d of shale oil (480 t/d shale fuel oil, 90 t/d naphtha), 120 t/d fuel gas, 45 t/d LPG and 75 t/d sulphur.
The intention of Petrobras is to maintain the technological expertise and development of its indigenous capacity but without expansion. However, the company will assist in feasibility studies and development of oil shale projects in countries which also have rich reserves of oil shale. At the present time a comprehensive feasibility study for a 50 000 b/d plant in Utah, USA is in progress, with a forecast completion date of September 2009. Additionally, studies on the Wadi Maghar project in Jordan and the Timahdit project in Morocco are being undertaken and are forecast to be completed within 36 months.
During 2007, the Fushun Mining Group Co. (Liaoning Province) was operating 180 Fushun-type retorts, each capable of processing 100 tonnes of oil shale per day. Output totalled 300 000 tonnes shale oil. By end-2008 it was expected that 220 Fushun retorts would be operating, with an output of 330 000 tonnes shale oil. The shale ash by-product is utilised to produce building materials. It is predicted that a 6 000 t/d ATP retort, imported by Fushun will be operational by end-2009.
Many other retorts are either operating or being planned in the provinces of Gansu, Guangdong, Hainan, Heilongjiang and Jilin.It was reported during 2007 that the Bureau of Geological Survey of China was undertaking a review of the oil shale resource and its utilisation.
The Estonian oil shale industry remains of vital importance to the country and Eesti Energia (EE) is the largest oil shale processing entity in the world. EE continues to work on the technology of oil shale retorting including reducing the environmental impact. To this end the company plans to export its expertise to other oil shale-rich countries.
Following a decrease to 14.1 million tonnes of oil shale in 2006, output in 2007 rose 17.4% to 16.5 million tonnes. Consumption of oil shale for electricity generation amounted to 16.8 million tonnes during 2007, a rise of nearly 20%, and output of shale oil amounted to 77 thousand tonnes.
Whilst the country investigates the possibilities of harnessing its large oil shale deposits for producing shale oil, some of the resource is utilised for the production of electricity. In 1990 just over 300 000 tonnes were used and by 2006 consumption had risen to 450 000 tonnes.
Jordan, with the help of other countries well-endowed with oil shale, continues to work towards the day when its vast oil shale resource can be exploited, both for the production of shale oil and also for electricity generation. In this respect the Jordan Oil Shale Energy Company (JOSECO) was established in 2006, with the express role of furthering this development.
In January 2009, it was reported that a contract between the Estonian company Eesti Energia (EE) and the Government had been signed for the exploration of oil shale in southern Jordan and for a power station to be constructed. EE will undertake a 3-year feasibility study.
In order to confirm the findings of the feasibility studies undertaken during the 1980s, the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines in mid-2008 engaged Petrobras and Total to re-evaluate the Timahdit oil shale deposits. The 2-year study will look at all aspects of developing the resource, which will be examined in the light of current economic and environmental conditions. An oil-producing facility using Petrobras's Petrosix technology will be considered.
The Thai Government has instituted a 4-year project to study the feasibility of developing and utilising the Mae Sot oil shale deposit. The 2008-2011 study will look at all aspects of exploration and development, including an investigation as to the suitability of using the retort ash in the building industry.
United States of America
The possibility of developing the vast oil shale resource of the U.S. remains the subject of much research and discussion. On the one hand, the in-situ process technologies being developed by, for example, Shell and ExxonMobil, must be proved on a commercial scale and on the other, the new Federal Administration must release land, in order for commercial development to occur. In mid-2008 the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published proposed regulations to establish a commercial oil shale programme. The legislation was to provide a phased approach for the development on public lands in oil shale-rich western states. However, first in January 2009 and then again in February, the new Administration announced that it was withdrawing the previous Administration's expanded RD&D leases and that, although offering a second round of RD&D leases, the oil shale programme would progress much more slowly.