The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office on Wednesday authorized the American unit of an Estonia-based company to build infrastructure needed to open an oil shale production plant in Uintah County.
The project was originally proposed six years ago, and its backers told NGI's Shale Daily that construction is still "several years off."
BLM Utah's record-of-decision (ROD) will allow Salt Lake City-based Enefit American Oil to create up to seven right-of-way corridors for pipelines, power lines and roads necessary for the extraction and processing of the oil shale, which has long been opposed by environmental groups.
"This approval allows for industrial-scale utilities to cross federal land to the site of Enefit's planned oil shale project," said company spokesperson Brian Wilkinson. "We're in the engineering and permitting phase for what is a long-lead time greenfield project. The cost estimate for the project is not publicly available yet as it’s subject to final engineering review."
BLM officials stressed that the project is consistent with President Trump's goal of U.S. energy independence."Right-of-way projects are tremendous economic drivers that involve critical coordination with our neighbors and stakeholders," said BLM Deputy Director Brian Steed.
BLM's ROD enables Enefit to build 13.7 miles of water supply pipeline, 5.8 miles of buried natural gas pipe, 7.18 miles of buried oil product line, and two 138-kV power lines. It would also include upgrading five miles of a major road on public lands in the Vernal, UT, field office.
The project would open up access to gas, electricity and water while moving processed oil from Enefit's South Project, planned on private land with Enefit-owned mines. It is located about 40 miles south of Vernal.
Oil shale is not the same as shale oil. Oil shale comes from kerogen-rich rocks closer to the surface than shale oil formations. The rocks have to be heated to extremely high temperatures to convert the kerogen into oil.
In lauding the decision, Enefit officials said the ROD allows the "extension of utility lines across a small portion of federal lands to serve the company's planned oil shale project."
The ROD approves the final environmental impact statement (EIS) and authorizes the rights-of-way. "The agency's EIS found that allowing Enefit's utility corridor would have less environmental impact than other alternatives, such as trucking commodities," an Enefit official said.
Generally, BLM's environmental assessment found that the utility corridors would have less adverse environmental impacts than the other alternatives.