Environmental impact of oil shale industry

Environmental impact of oil shale industry

Environmental impact of oil shale industry includes the consideration of issues such as land use, waste management, and water and air pollution. Surface mining of oil shale deposits has all the environmental impacts of open-pit mining. In addition, the combustion and thermal processing generate waste material, which must be disposed of, and harmful atmospheric emissions, including carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. Experimental in-situ conversion processes and carbon capture and storage technologies may reduce some of these concerns in future, but may raise others, such as the pollution of groundwater.cite paper |url=http://www.aspo-usa.com/fall2006/presentations/pdf/Bartis_J_Boston_2006.pdf | format = PDF | title=Unconventional Liquid Fuels Overview. 2006 Boston World Oil Conference | author=Jim Bartis, RAND Corporation |publisher=Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas - USA |date=2006 |accessdate=2007-06-28 ]

urface mining and retorting

Land use and waste management

Surface mining and "in-situ" processing requires extensive land use. Mining, processing and waste disposal require land to be withdrawn from traditional uses, and therefore should avoid high density population areas. Oil shale stockpiles, crushing and loading units cause noise and dust spreading. Oil shale mining reduces the original ecosystem diversity with habitats supporting a variety of plants and animals. After mining the land has to be reclaimed. However, this process takes time and cannot necessarily re-establish the original biodiversity.Cite journal | last =Kattel | first =T. | title =Design of a new oil shale surface mine | journal =Oil Shale. A Scientific-Technical Journal | publisher = Estonian Academy Publishers | volume =20 | issue =4 | pages =511–514 | date = 2003 | url=http://www.kirj.ee/public/oilshale/7_kattel_2003_4.pdf | format = PDF | id = ISSN 0208-189X | accessdate =2007-06-23] The impact of sub-surface mining on the surroundings will be less than for open pit mines. However, sub-surface mining may also cause subsidence of the surface due to the collapse of mined-out area and abandoned stone drifts.

Disposal of mining wastes, spent shale (semicoke) and combustion ashes needs additional land use. According to the study of the European Academies Science Advisory Council, after processing, the waste material occupies a greater volume than the material extracted, and therefore cannot be wholly disposed underground. According to this, production of a barrel of shale oil can generate up to 1.5 tons of semicoke, which may occupy up to 25 % greater volume than the original shale.cite journal
publisher = European Academies Science Advisory Council
url = http://www.easac.org/displaypagedoc.asp?id=78
title = A study on the EU oil shale industry viewed in the light of the Estonian experience. A report by EASAC to the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy of the European Parliament
format = PDF
date = May 2007
accessdate = 2007-11-25
] This is not confirmed by the results of the Estonia's oil shale industry. The mining and processing of 1000 million tons of oil shale in Estonia has created about 360-370 million tons of solid waste, of which 90 million tons is a mining waste, 70–80 million tons is a semicoke, and 200 million tons are combustion ashes.

The waste material may consist of several pollutants including sulfates, heavy metals, and polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), some of which are toxic and carcinogenic.Cite journal | last =Mölder | first =Leevi | title =Estonian Oil Shale Retorting Industry at a Crossroads | journal =Oil Shale. A Scientific-Technical Journal | publisher = Estonian Academy Publishers | volume =21 | issue =2 | pages =97–98 | date = 2004 | url=http://www.kirj.ee/public/oilshale/1_ed_page_2004_2.pdf | format = PDF | id = ISSN 0208-189X | accessdate =2007-06-23] Cite journal | last =Tuvikene | first =Arvo | last2 =Huuskonen | first2 =Sirpa | last3 =Koponen | first3 =Kari | last4 =Ritola | first4 =Ossi | last5 =Mauer | first5 =Ülle | last6 =Lindström-Seppä | first6 =Pirjo | title =Oil Shale Processing as a Source of Aquatic Pollution: Monitoring of the Biologic Effects in Caged and Feral Freshwater Fish | journal =Environmental Health Perspectives | publisher =United States' National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences | volume =107 | issue =9 | pages =745–752 | date =1999 | url=http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1566439&blobtype=pdf | format = PDF | accessdate =2007-06-16 | doi =10.2307/3434660] To avoid contamination of the groundwater, the solid waste from the thermal treatment process is disposed in an open dump (landfill or "heaps"), not underground. As semicoke consists, in addition to minerals, up to 10 % organics that may pose hazard to the environment owing to leaching of toxic compounds as well as to the possibility of self-ignition.

Water management

Mining influences the water runoff pattern of the area affected. In some cases it requires the lowering of groundwater levels below the level of the oil shale strata, which may have harmful effects on the surrounding arable land and forest. In Estonia for each cubic meter of oil shale mined, 25 cubic meters of water must be pumped.Cite journal
last = Brendow | first = K.
title = Global oil shale issues and perspectives. Synthesis of the Symposium on Oil Shale. 18-19 November, Tallinn
journal =Oil Shale. A Scientific-Technical Journal
publisher = Estonian Academy Publishers
volume =20
issue =1
pages =81–92
year =2003
format = PDF
id = ISSN 0208-189X
accessdate =2007-07-21
] At the same time the thermal processing of oil shale needs large amounts of water, which may be in short supply. Water concerns are particularly sensitive issue in arid regions, such as the western US and Israel's Negev Desert, where there are plans to expand the oil shale industry despite water overconsumption. [cite web
title=Oil-shale 'rush' is sparking concern
publisher="Deseret Morning News"
] cite news
author = Manski, Rebecca
title = Will plans to mine oil shale in Israel Negev Desert sideline renewable resource options?
publisher = BUSTAN: Environmental Justice in Israel’s Negev
date = 2006-08-06
url =http://bustan.org/pdfs/OilShaleTechInIsrael.pdf
accessdate = 2008-05-14
] Depending on technology, above-ground retorting uses between one and five barrels of water per barrel of produced shale oil.Cite paper
title = Fact Sheet:Oil Shale Water Resources
publisher = United States Department of Energy
format = PDF
accessdate =2007-09-15
] cite web
title = Oil Shale Myths
publisher = Shale Oil Information Center
date = 2005-07-09
url = http://www.shaleoilinfo.org/library/citizens/lukens2005Jul09.php
author = Luken, Larry
accessdate = 2008-04-01
] cite web
title = Critics charge energy, water needs of oil shale could harm environment
publisher = U.S. Water News Online
date = July 2007
url = http://www.uswaternews.com/archives/arcsupply/7critchar7.html
accessdate = 2008-04-01
] "In situ" processing, according to one estimate, uses about one-tenth as much water. [cite web
title=Hopes for shale oil are revived

Water represents the major vector of transfer of oil shale industry pollutants. One environmental issue is to prevent noxious materials leaching from spent shale into the water supply. The oil shale extraction process is accompanied by the formation of large amounts of different process waters and waste waters containing phenols, tar and several other products, heavily separable and toxic to the environment.Cite journal | last =Kahru | first =A. | last2=Põllumaa | first2=L. | title =Environmental hazard of the waste streams of Estonian oil shale industry: an ecotoxicological review | journal =Oil Shale. A Scientific-Technical Journal | publisher = Estonian Academy Publishers | volume =23 | issue =1 | pages =53–93 | date = 2006 | url=http://www.kirj.ee/public/oilshale/oil-2006-1-5.pdf | format = PDF | id = ISSN 0208-189X | accessdate =2007-09-02] A 2007 programmatic environmental impact statement issued by the US Bureau of Land Management stated that surface mining and retort operations produce two to ten US gallons nowrap|(8–38 l) of wastewater per tonne of processed oil shale.cite web
title=Draft Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resource Management Plan Amendments to Address Land Use Allocations in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Volume 2
publisher=Argonne National Laboratory
date= 2007-12-07

Air pollution management

Main air pollution is caused by the oil shale-fired power plants, which provide the atmospheric emissions of gaseous products like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride, and the airborne particulate matter (fly ash). It includes particles of different types (carbonaceous, inorganic ones) and different sizes.Cite journal| last =Teinemaa | first =E. | last2 =Kirso | first2 =U. | last3 =Strommen | first3 =M.R. | last4=Kamens | first4=R.M. | title = Deposition flux and atmospheric behavior of oil shale combustion aerosols | journal =Oil Shale. A Scientific-Technical Journal | publisher = Estonian Academy Publishers | volume =20 | issue = 3 Special | pages =429–440 | date =2003 | url=http://www.kirj.ee/public/oilshale/19_kirso_2003_3s.pdf | format = PDF | id = ISSN 0208-189X | accessdate =2007-09-02] The concentration of air pollutants in flue gas depends primarily on the combustion technology and burning regime, while the emissions of solid particles are determined by the efficiency of fly ash-capturing devices.

Open deposition of semicoke causes distribution of pollutants in addition to aqueous vectors also via air (dust).

Greenhouse gas emissions

Carbon dioxide emissions from the production of shale oil and shale gas are higher than conventional oil production and a report for the European Union warns that increasing public concern about the adverse consequences of global warming may lead to opposition to oil shale development.

Emissions arise from several sources. These include CO2 released by the decomposition of the kerogen and carbonate minerals in the extraction process—which also releases some methane—the generation of the energy needed to heat the shale and in the other oil and gas processing operations, and the mining of the rock and the disposal of waste. [cite web
title=Estonian oil shale
author=Mihkel Koel
] Cite journal
last =Ots | first =Arvo
title =Estonian oil shale properties and utilization in power plants
journal = Energetika
publisher = Lithuanian Academy of Sciences Publishers
volume = 53
issue = 2
pages = 8–18
year =2007
date = 2007-02-12
url= http://images.katalogas.lt/maleidykla/Ener72/Ener_008_018.pdf
format = PDF
accessdate =2007-11-07
] As the varying mineral composition and calorific value of oil shale deposits varies widely, the actual values vary considerably. At best, the direct combustion of oil shales produces carbon emissions similar to those from the lowest form of coal, lignite, at 2.15 moles CO2/MJ, an energy source which is also politically contentious due to its high emission levels. [Cite web
title=The Greens Won't Line Up For Dirty Brown Coal In The Valley
publisher=Australian Greens Victoria
] [cite web
title=Greenpeace Germany Protests Brown Coal Power Stations
publisher=Environment News Service

"In-situ" processing

Currently, the "in-situ" process is the most attractive proposition due to the reduction in standard surface environmental problems. However, "in-situ" processes do involve possible significant environmental costs to aquifers, especially since "in-situ" methods may require ice-capping or some other form of barrier to restrict the flow of the newly gained oil into the groundwater aquifers. However, after the removal of the freeze wall these methods can still cause groundwater contamination as the hydraulic conductivity of the remaining shale increases allowing groundwater to flow through and leach salts from the newly toxic aquifer.Cite paper | last = Bartis | first = James T. | last2 =LaTourrette | first2 = Tom | last3 = Dixon | first3 =Lloyd | last4 = Peterson | first4 =D.J. | last5 = Cecchine | first5 = Gary | title = Oil Shale Development in the United States. Prospects and Policy Issues. Prepared for the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy | publisher = The RAND Corporation | date = 2005 | url = http://www.netl.doe.gov/energy-analyses/pubs/Oil%20Shale%20Development%20in%20the%20United%20States%20-%20RAND%20August%20200.pdf | id = ISBN 978-0-8330-3848-7 | accessdate =2007-06-29] cite web | author=Elliot Grunewald | publisher=Stanford University | url=http://srb.stanford.edu/nur/GP200A%20Papers/elliot_grunewald_paper.pdf | title =Oil Shale and the Environmental Cost of Production | format=PDF | date= 2006-06-06 | accessdate=2007-06-02]

ee also

* Oil shale
* Oil shale geology
* Oil shale reserves
* Oil shale industry
* Oil shale extraction
* Oil shale economics


External links and further reading

* [http://www.ostseis.anl.gov/ Oil Shale and Tar Sands Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)] Concerning potential leases of Federal oil sands lands in Utah and oil shale lands in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado

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