Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oil Shale Development in the West, and you.

Hey guys-

If you can spare 5 minutes, this is worth taking part in. Shell Oil has developed a method of extracting oil in a profitable manner from the massive oil shale deposits in western Colorado north of I-70 and a huge swath of Eastern Utah and Southern Wyoming. Due to a knee jerk reaction by congress in the aftermath of 9/11, the energy bill of 2005 required the BLM to get a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) in process in a time frame that is too short to allow for further study ito the comprehensive impacts of this extraction technology. The industry then lobbied to have the "preferred outcome" of the PEIS to be the wholesale opening a million acres of the west to oilshale resource development (read 'wide-scale rape of the land and water of the upper Colorado river drainage').

Test wellsite for Oil Shale resource exploitation - original is here.

There are two other options allowed for in the PEIS, a limited opening of roughly half a million acres, and the 'no action' option, which would leave the privately held lands that the industry currently owns and has developed as test sites for this technology for further testing.

The problem is this. The technology that Shell would like to use involves building a massive pad (3 acres or more) where they will sink heating wells, and extraction wells. (see Below).

Picture from Shell's "Project Mahogany" website here.
Also there is a sweet panoramic shot here. (requires Apple Quicktime)

By using massive amounts of electricity (currently not available in the oil shale bearing areas) to heat the underground shale for months, they can 'crack' the hydrocarbons from the rock, and collect the crude and natural gas in the extraction wells as it boils off. They claim that the ratio of energy-out to energy-in is 3:1. The problem is that they plan to use the gas coming off as a heating source as well, but the energy from the gas is not included in the 3:1 ratio. Based on the volumes of gas that they are talking about, the ratio is probably more like 1:1. So they have in fact found an extremely resource and pollution intensive way to turn natural gas into oil. At $100+ per barrel, this is a boon for the industry. I think it's a crock of shit.

While a trillion barrel's of domestic oil would be nice, to extract even a portion of this oil will require two large power plants, their associated pollution, and an estimated yearly water usage equivalent to the city of Denver, never mind the people, roads, power lines, well site pads and other disturbance in these remote and wild lands. The cost of this process is too high. The land, the air, and the water of the west will be severely taxed if the preferred option of the PEIS is granted.

What you can do:

Copy the following statement, and then go to this link for the public comment form on the PEIS website:

Enter your name and address, paste in the text and hit submit. The comment period will be permanently closed as of Monday, so please take the time to do this today. Feel free to pass this along to anyone who may like to see it.

_______________________Begin Statement_________________

I am writing to express my concern that the Oil Shale PEIS has not adequatly addressed the connected actions and connected environmental impacts of granting the preferred option. Until the comprehensive impacts of large scale oil shale develpoment are better sutdied and understood, I ask that OPTION A, "No Action" be adopted as the outcome of this PEIS.

_______________________End Statement___________________

For those interrested here is the link to Shell's "Project Mahogany".


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