Enefit American Oil Welcomes Release of BLM DEIS to Allow Utility Corridor Across Federal Land to Serve Company’s Energy Project
BLM Opens Comment Period and Schedules Three Open Houses in Early May
SALT LAKE CITY – Enefit American Oil (EAO) is pleased that, after more than three years of work, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will release on Friday a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on potential effects of a utility corridor to serve the company’s planned oil shale project in eastern Utah’s Uintah Basin.
While EAO’s energy project would be developed on private property the company owns, utilities to serve it must cross federal land, which requires an environmental review process. Uses for the utility corridor include water and natural gas supply lines, 138-kilovolt electricity lines, road improvements, and an oil product pipeline.
“We have worked closely and cooperated fully with the BLM and other federal, state and local agencies since the environmental review process began in late 2012,” said EAO CEO Rikki Hrenko-Browning. “Many issues and concerns were identified during the process, and we believe they have been sufficiently addressed to advance approval of the ‘Proposed Action’ to allow the utility corridor.”
The BLM has announced that it will accept emailed public comments about the DEIS and Proposed Action through June 14, 2016, at UT_Vernal_Comments@blm.gov. Three open houses have been scheduled for the public to learn about the environmental document and ask questions of the BLM’s review team. Meetings will be held May 3 in Vernal, Utah, May 4 in Rangely, Colorado, and May 5 in Salt Lake City. Once the Notice of Availability is published in the Federal Register on Friday, the DEIS may be viewed at http://go.usa.gov/csa9j.
Responding to critics
“We’re aware that many advocacy groups have made, and no doubt will continue to make, comments challenging the need for our project and making allegations about it that are simply not true,” Hrenko-Browning said. “Given that the environmental document, which will be voluminous, won’t be published until Friday, meaning neither EAO nor the dissenters have yet seen the analysis, we encourage people to review it closely before making conclusions.”
“It’s also important to remember,” Hrenko-Browning added, “that some groups want to confuse the issue by trying to connect development of the entire project to the utility corridor analysis, while in reality the agency’s decision applies only to the 15 or so miles of BLM land that utilities will cross.”
Myth vs Reality
Other myths about EAO’s oil shale project that are often repeated by opponents include claims that producing energy from oil shale is not viable, that the production process will use extravagant amounts of water, that EAO’s project is subsidized by the government, and that more energy is used to produce oil from oil shale than the resulting oil provides. All of these assertions are false:
- Viability: EAO’s parent company is the world’s largest producer of oil and electricity from oil shale. In its home country of Estonia, the firm has a 100-year track record of producing electricity and steam heat from oil shale and has produced liquid fuels from mined oil shale for more than 30 years. The largest company in the Baltic nation, it supplies 90 percent of the country’s power. In addition, viable oil shale industries exist in Brazil and China and are being developed in other countries, including Jordan.
- Water use: “We are very sensitive to the fact that water is an extremely precious resource in Utah’s arid environment,” Hrenko-Browning said. “That’s why we’re committed to designing the project to be a ‘zero liquid discharge’ facility, meaning that all wastewater will be captured and reused on site.
“What’s more, no water is used in the raw oil production process itself, but will primarily be needed for dust suppression in the mining operation, as is normal for similar projects. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a 50,000 barrel-per-day oil shale plant – the potential size of EAO’s project if fully developed – would use about 4,000 acre-feet of water per year. That’s about the same amount of water needed to grow 2,000 acres of alfalfa. With that amount of water, EAO could meet one-third of Utah’s current annual liquid fuel demand – an impressive and beneficial use of our water resources.”
- Subsidies: While oil shale projects in the 1970s and ‘80s were subsidized by the U.S. military, those programs no longer exist and EAO’s project is in no way subsidized by government. Nor are the company’s Estonian operations. In fact, the opposite is true: Enefit pays an annual royalty to the Estonian government; in 2015, this amount was 62 million euros (approximately US$68 million).
“The BLM’s involvement in preparing an Environmental Impact Statement does not imply any kind of government endorsement either, as some have suggested,” said Hrenko-Browning. “The government is required to conduct an environmental analysis when a request is made by a private company or other organization that could potentially affect federal property.”
- Energy yield. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Petroleum Reserves estimates that oil from surface-mined oil shale can return 10 times or more energy than is used to produce it. That’s similar to the 10.5 average energy return for conventional petroleum. In comparison, producing ethanol from corn actually uses more energy than it returns.
“While EAO supports the federal government’s ‘all of the above’ energy policy,” Hrenko-Browning said, “even renewables such as solar and wind have environmental impacts and are entirely dependent on the mining industry to support the vital components that make these renewables possible. There is no magic bullet solution to the energy needs that support our daily activities and the high quality of life that we all enjoy.”
EAO’s environmental commitment
In addition to progress on the EIS, EAO has participated in a Conservation Agreement recently signed by a wide range of federal, state and local agencies to conserve two sensitive penstemon plants and prevent an endangered species listing. EAO voluntarily set aside more than 1,600 acres of its private property for a penstemon conservation area and is supporting plant surveys and transplantation efforts that are already showing dramatic success.
“Enefit American Oil is well qualified to contribute to Utah’s energy security, create long-term jobs, and help meet community goals,” Hrenko-Browning noted. “Our 30-year track record of producing liquid fuels in an environmentally responsible and economically viable manner demonstrate our commitment to environmental stewardship and desire to work together with our community to develop this project in the most responsible manner possible.”
Visit EnefitUtah.com for more information about the company and its Utah Project.