2013-01-31

Some oil shale advocates like to point at the nation of Estonia as proof that oil shale can be a viable energy source. Unfortunately, Estonia isn’t saying the same thing about U.S. oil shale.

According to Estonian media reports, opposition members of parliament are challenging the competence of Economic Affairs Minister Juhan Parts in light of a recent report that the Eesti Energia’s Utah venture, known as Enefit American Oil, could lose millions.Utah oil shale becomes political punching bag in Estonia, Salt Lake Tribune, January 25, 2013

The Director of the Department of Mining at the Tallinn University of Technology (in Estonia) said that he “believes oil production from Utah shale is not a matter of five to six years, as Enefit predicts, but more a question of decades.”Utah oil shale becomes political punching bag in Estonia, Salt Lake Tribune, January 25, 2013

For several decades Eesti Energia, an Estonian government owned corporation has been extracting oil shale and primarily using it to power their electricity needs. Eesti Energia, known as Enefit in the U.S., is Estonia’s largest employer and considered a world leader in processing oil shale using a proprietary retorting technology. In 2011, Enefit bought the largest privately held oil shale reserve in Utah and has since been working to extract and process oil shale from this reserve.

Recently, Estonian politicians have expressed serious concerns at the prospect of losing $100 million from their government’s heavy investment in Enefit’s Utah project.

“There has been criticism of [Eesti Energia] CEO Sandor Liive’s too-close relationship to Economic Affairs Minister Juhan Parts,” said Steve Roman, Estonian National Public Radio. “Especially in recent months… there has been a lot of questioning of the government’s moves vis-a-vis investments in state-owned companies.” Estonian press reports Enefit Oil American faces setback developing mine, Vernal Express, January 28, 2013

According to the Vernal Express, an Estonian newspaper has reported that:

Enefit’s Utah project has proven to be “unexpectedly difficult to do,” and that tests indicate that Utah oil shale requires more energy to break down than expected, resulting in higher carbon dioxide emissions.

Unlike oil shale reserves in Estonia, Utah’s reserves are harder and drier and aren’t releasing as much petroleum.