Canadian oil startup Questerre Energy Corp. on Wednesday reported encouraging results from a study in Jordan that used oil mining and separation technology invented in Utah for tapping surface shale deposits.

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. The economics and environmental concerns of oil shale are considerably different from those of shale oil.

Calgary-based Questerre said it would seek a development concession in the Middle Eastern country after reviewing a report on a potential 50,000 b/d project conducted by international engineering firm Hatch Ltd.

The proposal relies on a method called EcoShale devised by Salt Lake City technology firm Red Leaf Resources, which is 25% owned by Questerre, to separate oil from Utah’s Green River formation. The method is not yet in commercial use.

The technique heats fine-grained rock dug up by mining hardware in reusable drums. By a process known to science as pyrolysis, the equipment broils high-grade oil out of the stone.

Red Leaf has conducted field trials in Utah. The method earns its trade name as EcoShale by using no water and entirely avoiding controversial horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing to tap unconventional oil and gas resources.

Questerre president Michael Binnion circulated a statement to investors that the Hatch study of the technique’s potential in Jordanian surface shale deposits turned out to be “an important milestone.”

For a mining and upgrading project that would produce low-sulphur diesel and gasoline, Questerre said the review forecast capital costs of US$18.00-$20.00/barrel and operating expenses of US$18.00/barrel.

“While these costs are very early stage, our project could be very competitive with other large energy projects.”

Questerre said next steps will include a further, “pre-front-end engineering design” study by Hatch and overtures to obtain a development concession from the Jordanian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. No target dates were set for completing the technical work, obtaining production rights or building a project.