Monday, August 25

Queensland Follows In Rudd's Carbon Footsteps

Anna Bligh has placed a 20 year moratorium on oil shale development until it can be proved environmentally sound.

The day he took office as Prime Minister of Australia, Rudd reversed Howard's fossil-fuelish ways by moving promptly to sign on to Kyoto. He had the support of most Australians: 84% say Climate Change is a real problem.

Looks like Queensland's Premier, Anna Bligh, is following in Rudd's carbon footsteps.

She is halting plans to dig up about 400,000 tons of rock for resource testing. She said first the Government would spent the next two years researching whether shale oil deposits "can be used in an environmentally acceptable way" before releasing her moratorium.

Premier Bligh said the company would be allowed to try to develop new technology, "And if that is proved satisfactorily, then the Government will have a look to see if other sites are suitable to be developed." This marks the second energy source Queensland has halted. The state already placed a prohibition on the mining and export of uranium until it can prove itself environmentally safe.

QER said it had looked into 60 different technologies for extracting shale oil and was confident that the one it had chosen would satisfy the requirements of Queensland's Environmental Protection Agency. The technique they plan to use is the Paraho process which involves drilling holes and inserting heaters in target underground zones to slowly heat the shale. Per Energy Bulletin

Once the shale is sufficiently heated, a chemical reaction starts and releases the lighter hydrocarbons, which rise. The heavier hydrocarbons remain within the formation. The lighter hydrocarbons, almost a gasoline-type product, are subsequently pumped out of the ground through conventional means.

The advantage of this new process is that it eliminates the problem of waste disposal, because the heavy hydrocarbons are left in their original form in the underground shale. Also, the process requires much less water.

In contrast, the old retort method requires a lot of water to cool the heated rock. Also, once the oil is extracted from shale, the greasy residue - which almost doubles in volume because of heat expansion - has to be disposed of.

Current oil shale mining makes at least 3 X more carbon emissions than traditional oil drilling and uses 3 barrels of water to make 1 barrel of oil, and already Australia is ten years into the worst drought in the developed world.

So if this technique does prove to be a more environmentally sound way to scrape oil from rocks, than what we are doing now, it will be big news.

Oil Shale photo by Nick Bristow
From the Australian Courier Mail

For MatterNetwork