Could Utah see an oil shale boom in the near future?

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Enefit, an Estonian oil shale company, has big plans for Utah. Pictured here are Enefit140 and Enefit280 oil plants in Estonia. (Photo courtesy of Enefit)
Enefit, an Estonian oil shale company, has big plans for Utah. Pictured here are Enefit140 and Enefit280 oil plants in Estonia. (Photo courtesy Enefit)

Northeastern Utah, parts of Colorado and Wyoming contain the largest deposits of oil shale in the world. This means a potential rise for both Utah’s economy and Enefit, an Estonian oil shale company that plans on mining for oil shale in the near future, according to scholars.

Construction on Enefit’s oil shale plant, south of Vernal, is scheduled to take place from 2017 to 2019, as stated on Enefit’s website.

“It would be a major energy boom in Utah,” said Thomas Fletcher, a professor in the BYU chemical engineering department.

Oil shale is a rock containing hydrocarbons. The oil shale, when mined, goes through a process of heating, separating and refining to produce energy that can be used for resources from electricity to jet fuel.

Concerning Enefit, Professor Larry Baxter, a colleague of Fletcher, said, “In Estonia they produce (energy), and they do a good job at it. This is much more controversial, partly because of the quantity of water that goes into producing this material. Turns out you can never get the rock back into the hole that you got the rock from.”

Putting used oil shale rock back in the ground after oil is extracted is one of the steps practiced by Enefit when producing energy.

“The prospect of 2,000 stable, well-paying, long-term jobs, in particular, is very attractive to residents who want to see their children remain in the community rather than seek jobs elsewhere,” said Enefit in a newsletter to Utah residents.

For more information on oil shale or Enefit, visit www.enefitutah.com

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