Quick questions and answers about oil shale
Garfield County correspondent
While the BLM cannot draft oil shale regulations because of a current moratorium, the agency is currently in the process of completing an environmental analysis that will identify lands suitable for potential oil shale development.
That document, which could suggest that about 360,000 acres in Colorado be open for commercial oil shale leasing, is expected to be released late this year. Several additional environmental reviews, along with consultation with governors of states impacted by oil shale and tar sands development, would have to follow.
Most research into oil shale recovery in Colorado is focusing on in-situ processing, which means extracting hydrocarbons without having to mine oil shale. When the oil shale industry was operating in Western Colorado before the bust of the early 1980s, the shale was mined out of the ground and then heated above the surface to make oil ” a process that required blazing hot temperatures.
The current plan by Shell Exploration and Production is to lower electrical heaters into the rock formation and heat it to 650 to 700 degrees over a period of three to four years. When the oil shale gets to a suitable temperature, the hydrocarbon material ” called kerogen ” becomes a vapor. When it is pulled to the surface, it cools and condenses to produce a liquid that is two-thirds oil and one-third natural gas. The company is also developing a “freeze-wall” technology that is intended to build a frozen wall that protects the surrounding water formations from hydrocarbons during the oil shale conversion process.
What is the answer to America’s energy problems? Some responses from the U.S. Senate candidates:
Mark Udall: “I think the American public is ahead of the politicians. They know that this has been a long time coming. They know that we as a society have not made the tough choices we need to make about energy.
“The way we become more independent, energy-wise, is to develop alternative liquid fuels, the ethanols and the biodiesels, not corn-based ethanol, but new generation ethanols and to move to a transportation system that is powered by electrons, electricity.
“I am listening to people of all political stripes who say let’s use electricity, let’s work for more hybrid vehicle technologies. Let’s make those investments. We need oil and we need traditional oil-based fuels in the short-term, but we can’t drill our way out of this problem. We should be doing some additional, responsible drilling, but the long-term bet is on these other technologies.”
Bob Schaffer: “I have supported those issues in the private sector and in the public sector. One of the principal businesses I have been involved with in the last six years is with wind power projects.
“Congress has failed to … provide reasonable time frames for renewable tax credits. They keep getting extended for short periods of time. Extending the tax credits for five or 10 years, not indefinitely, but for a longer periods of time than annually would be effective because it frees up literally billions of dollars of private capital for investment in renewable power projects.
“The unwillingness of Congress to extend these credits and one-year extensions has taken tens of billions, if not hundreds of billions, of dollars in private capital off the table that could be and should be invested in promising renewable technologies.”
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