New study reduces water use needed for oil shale

GLENWOOD SPRINGS I A new study has drastically reduced projections of water needs for oil shale development. The study, commissioned by the Colorado and Yampa Basin Roundtables, projects a maximum demand by the industry of 120,000 acre-feet/ year by 2050, compared to the approximately 400,000 acre-feet an earlier phase of the same study projected. The difference in this revised estimate stems primarily from refined assumptions about how the industry is likely to develop and evolve. According to the new study, the time it would take to ramp up from research and development to commercial level production will be lengthy and industry will probably use resources at or near their production facilities, such as natural gas, rather than ordering large, expensive, coal-fired power plants to provide the energy for down-hole heating and freezing.
This gas would be used in gas-fired turbine generators providing power at the site, using much less water than required by coal-fired power plants. Upgrade facilities, during the gradual ramp-up to commercial production, would probably occur at existing facilities (such as one in Salt Lake City) rather than in expensive new facilities.
Finally, produced water would make up a portion of the necessary water supply. The next phase of the study is to model where the water for the industry would come from. For more information, contact the Colorado Basin Roundtable’s Energy Committee Chair, Greg Trainor,