Utah will soon be home to the nation’s first commercial oil shale mine.
Red Leaf Resources was recently issued a groundwater permit by the Utah Division of Water Quality, which will allow the company to begin development on a facility located in the Uintah Basin.
The company currently holds leases for approximately 17,000 acres of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands property south of Vernal. This property will be the site of oil shale development.
According to a press release by Red Leaf Resources, the company plans to mine the product with limited environmental impact using EcoShale technology.
“We extract oil with lower energy consumption, lower emissions, lower water use and less environmental impact than any oil shale technology deployed in the world today,” explained Red Leaf CEO Adolph Lechtenberger.
Environmentalists, however, are worried that the mining process will destroy the area’s watershed and strip mining may disfigure the landscape. Red Leaf will be required by law to maintain monitoring wells to determine the mines affect on the water system.
The Department of Environmental Quality will also be monitoring the development process. A current draft permit issued by the DEQ covers the early production system only. This means that if Red Leaf wants to construct and operate a larger facility, they must report its findings on waste containment and monitoring results to the DEQ before a permit modification will be allowed.
The oil shale mining process has a potential of making a huge impact on unconventional energy production. The trick is turning the product into oil.
According to a press release from Red Leaf Resources, oil shale development is the process by which a solid organic material rich in hydrocarbons called “kerogen” is converted to crude oil, condensate and natural gas through the application of heat. Red Leaf’s EcoShale technology involves heating the kerogen to over 700 degrees for several months in underground capsules lined with bentonite and clay.
With the groundwater permit now in place, Red Leaf looks to begin work as early as this spring at its Uintah Basin location.