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BLM Could Soon Give OK To Oil Shale In Utah
Oil shale.

The Bureau of Land Management has moved closer to allowing access by Enefit, an Estonian company, to commercial oil shale drilling rights in Uintah County. The operation would be the first of its kind in the United States.

Environmental advocacy groups are concerned that oil shale production will only intensify Utah’s air quality problem. Anne Mariah Tapp, Energy Program Director with the Grand Canyon Trust, said that she is apprehensive about oil shale’s carbon footprint.

“The carbon footprint of oil shale is 165 percent greater West Texan Intermediate crude [oil],” Tapp said. “So it has quite a significant carbon footprint, which is one of the main reasons that we’re really concerned about this type of hydrocarbon development being introduced in the United States. This would be first time oil shale has ever been commercially developed.”

It is estimated that, at full capacity, 50,000 barrels of the oil would be produced at the site per day. Part of the project proposal would allow Enefit access to the Green River. Tapp said that projections show that a large amount of water would be needed to for the oil shale process.

“Enefit hasn’t ever submitted a plan of development. They’re asking BLM to grant a right of way without letting them look the plan that they are to use to develop the oil shale,” she said. “Back in 2012, BLM did an analysis that included a water impacts analysis for projects and they’re numbers came up between two and 10 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. ranks second in the world in terms of recoverable oil shale resources. 

Editor's Note: the proposed Enefit project would draw water from the Green, not White River.