ExxonMobil may resume shale research
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ExxonMobil could use its long-idle Colony Project site to begin new research into extracting oil from shale, government regulators and industry experts said.News of the possible revival at the site comes nearly 25 years after ExxonMobil predecessor Exxon Corp. shut down its oil-shale research at the Colony Project and threw thousands of Western Colorado residents out of work. The date, May 2, 1982, became known as “Black Sunday.”Jim Edwards, a minerals manager for the federal Bureau of Land Management, told The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction that ExxonMobil plans “research and development with its own technology on its own land.”Jeremy Boak, project manager of the Colorado Energy Research Institute at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, said the tests “presumably” would be at the Colony Project site.ExxonMobil declined to comment on specifics of its oil shale research, including whether any would be done at the Colony Project.The site is near Parachute, about 150 miles west of Denver and 35 miles northeast of Grand Junction.In an e-mail, the company told The Sentinel that developing viable alternatives to conventional oil technology requires a long-term commitment and that “ExxonMobil is one of a very few companies that has the world-class technology and the financial strength to pursue such resources.”At an oil shale symposium at the School of Mines last October, ExxonMobil outlined what it called an “electrofrac process” for extracting shale from oil on-site, or in situ.”Conceptually, it’s a really exciting idea,” but ExxonMobil has yet to prove it can work outside the laboratory, Boak said.Before the company could start new tests, it would have to ask the state to amend its mine-reclamation permit. It has not applied for such an amendment, said Steve Shuey, an environmental protection specialist for the state Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.In December, the Interior Department passed over ExxonMobil when it awarded 10-year leases to test oil-shale extraction techniques on public land. Instead the leases went to Shell Frontier Oil & Gas Co., Chevron USA and EGL Resources Inc.
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Produced by Colorado State University’s J-school, the documentary examines the economic potential of the plant.