EA predicts no impact from oil shale project
A proposed research project to test an extraction method for oil shale in the Piceance Basin will have no appreciable environmental impact, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The conclusion is based on findings of an environmental assessment (EA) published last week. The EA analyzes the potential impact of EGL Resources Inc.’s test of an in-place oil shale retorting technology it hopes to conduct on a 160-acre lease of BLM property near Meeker.EGL’s report is the first of five proposed projects in Colorado. Two additional EAs, for Chevron Shale Oil Co. and Shell Frontier, which seeks to lease three separate tracts, are due out in the next several weeks, according a prepared statement from BLM.The two EAs covering Chevron and Shell should be out “in a couple of weeks,” said Jim Edwards, chief of the branch of solid minerals for BLM.A final decision on EGL’s lease will be made “if everything goes according to plan, by the end of September,” he said.Public comment will be taken by BLM on the EGL report until Sept. 1.”We want to hear from the public, so we ask that people give us their input through the public comment process,” said BLM White River Field Office Manager Kent Walter. “We will carefully evaluate the substantive comments we receive, and will incorporate them into any final decision we make.”Before awarding the lease, BLM will also require the companies to post a bond to cover reclamation, including removal of surface facilities, pipelines and roads, Edwards said, as well as long-term groundwater monitoring wells.EGL proposed to test an in-situ (in-place) technology that involves drilling a vertical shaft and fracturing the oil shale, a technique used in natural gas development.Conduit pipes will circulate super-heated steam or heat-retaining fluids – EGL will test both methods – to essentially melt the oil-bearing kerogen and associated hydrocarbons and carry the liquid up to the surface.Although it has not been given a final green light to proceed, EGL is on track to begin the project.”We expect to go into the field next summer,” said EGL oil shale division manager Glenn Vawter, of Glenwood Springs.The company has put up a $10 million bond to cover the construction, drilling and retort process, Vawter said.Overall, the test will cost “in the tens of millions of dollars,” Vawter said. Next year, the company will spend about $10 million alone on construction of the above-ground facilities. The plant will cover about five acres.”It will probably be three years before we know it’s successful,” Vawter said.If the technology proves effective, and EGL is banking that it will, they should be able to recover 60 percent of the oil shale resource.After three years – the amount of time EGL estimates it will take to heat up the rock enough to liquefy the kerogen – the test will produce 107,000 barrels of light crude oil.”It might be semi-commercial at that recovery level,” Vawter said. “We could be close to self-sustaining.”Copies of the EA are available online at http://www.co.blm.gov/wrra/nepa.htm. Hard copies are available at the BLM White River Field Office in Meeker and at the BLM Colorado State Office.Comments can be submitted online at: Colorado_OSRDDEA@blm.gov or in writing to: Bureau of Land Management, White River Field Office, 73544 Highway 64, Meeker, CO 81506, attn: Jane Peterson.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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