Wyoming gets oil shale project
GREEN RIVER, Wyo. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is launching Wyoming’s first oil shale research program in nearly three decades to determine the economic and environmental feasibility of developing oil shale in southwest Wyoming.In an agreement with General Synfuels International, a small parcel of private land south of Rock Springs in Sweetwater County will be explored for oil shale development.Scientists estimate there’s up to 1.5 trillion barrels of oil within shale formations that could be recovered in northwest Colorado, southwest Wyoming and northeast Utah. But the oil is difficult to extract, and researchers are trying to find an economical way to get it out.Texas-based Anadarko holds vast reserves of oil shale deposits in the region that are intertwined with federal holdings.The exploration agreement in Wyoming covers a 160-acre site about 35 miles south of Rock Springs on a Union Pacific Railroad section, said John Christiansen, a spokesman for Anadarko’s mineral programs.Larry Vance, chairman of Montana-based General Synfuels, said Wednesday that the company also has a 500-acre site north of Rifle in northwest Colorado and might also gain access to 2,500 more acres in the same area.Vance said General Synfuels has worked on its technology since 1980. The kerogen in the rock, a precursor to oil, is heated and turned into gas underground. A modular, movable unit with compressors and other equipment sits on top.The agreement with Anadarko allow General Synfuels, a wholly owned subsidiary of Earth Search Sciences Inc., to test and develop its technology to recover hydrocarbons from oil shale, said Luis Lugo, chief executive of Earth Sciences.In a news release, Lugo said his company’s technology involves an “environmentally low-impact and energy self-sustainable gasification process” that has the potential to drastically reduce production costs for oil shale compared to conventional oil development methods.”We anticipate our gasification process to yield positive results, (both) environmentally and commercially, in a matter of months,” he said.Christiansen said southwest Wyoming is particularly well suited to handle such energy activity.”Right now, we think this property is pretty optimal for an R&D because it’s near existing infrastructure,” Christiansen said. “You’ve got transportation in the area, and you’ve also got a pretty highly skilled work force already there, so it’s not a bad place to conduct a test like this and see what GSI can do with it.”The Wyoming Wildlife Federation and other conservation groups are wary of oil shale development.WWF Executive Director Walt Gasson said many people hunt and fish on public lands in southwest Wyoming, and those recreational opportunities could be affected by any oil shale development.He said the pilot oil shale research projects could possibly result in hundreds of thousands of acres of vital wildlife habitat for big game and sage grouse being occupied by machinery at the exclusion of all other uses.”I realize we need some energy development, but they’ve already blanketed western Wyoming with roads and wells,” Gasson said. “Are we so desperate that we’ll sacrifice the places we’ve hunted for generations for something as uncertain as oil shale?”Steve Torbit, Rocky Mountain regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, predicted the entire oil shale experiment will be “a colossal waste of water” for the region. He said extracting and producing oil from shale will require tremendous quantities of water that may not be readily available.Vance said General Synfuels’ technology produces water, which will be used for cooling. He said the process won’t require outside water.The company plans to apply when the federal government offers more oil shale research and development leases on public land.
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It’s that time of year — hikers and mountain bikers must be aware that seasonal closures are taking effect on multiple trails in the area today for the winter for the benefit of wildlife.