Eastern Utah Oil Shale Permit Challenged

Nov 20, 2014

  A battle is shaping up over a permit to produce oil from oil shale on state land in eastern Utah.  The permit is based on technology that’s still being developed.

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining approved a permit last month for a British company -- TomCo -- to produce oil from shale deposits near the Colorado border.  TomCo plans to mine the shale and then roast it for months in underground capsules to release oil from the rock.  The system was developed by Red Leaf Resources, a Utah-based company.

The environmental group Living Rivers has challenged the permit. Their lawyer is Rob Dubuc.

“Right now, Red Leaf is undergoing testing of a prototype capsule," Dubuc tells KUER.  "They have yet to construct that and they certainly haven’t tested it, and until all that is complete, there’s no basis for the division to allow this thing to go forward.”

Dana Dean is the State Division’s Associate Director. She says the system has been demonstrated successfully on a smaller scale.

Dean tells KUER, “As long as they’re following the rules and not degrading the environment, then yes, we would be happy to see something like that succeed and give the nation an alternative energy source.”

The issue could eventually wind up before the Utah Supreme Court.  Even if the TomCo project goes ahead, it could still be several years before commercial quantities of oil can be produced there.