A piece of oil shale fairly rich in kerogen.
On Nov. 11, Laura Nelson the vice president of Ecoshale, said the company's pilot project has produced a high quality oil-shale product.
And, "we did so working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to make an environmentally sensitive product."
Nelson was briefing the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining at the Uintah Basin Applied Technology College in the success of Ecoshale's feasibility test.
Ecoshale's synthetic product has properties rated by the American Petroleum Institute (API) as 39 condensate oil and between 34 and 35 prompt oil with no fines, or impurities, in the oil.
Based on the test study, Nelson projects full-production at 30,000 barrels a day would cost $20.21 per barrel, not including transportation.
Her comments came just days after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called for an investigation into Bush-era oil shale leasing practices in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.
While Salazar's comments refer to oil shale leases on federal lands, Nelson says Ecoshale is developing less obtrusive extraction techniques on state lands.
She notes the Salt Lake-based Ecoshale operates a test facility on "17,000 acres on Utah State School Institutional Trust Lands property roughly 60 miles southeast of Vernal."
Geologists estimate that "there's about 1.5 billion barrels of in-place oil shale resource on these properties," says Nelson, who adds conservatively that only 500 million barrels are recoverable.
Deposits of the Green River Formation oil shale are found from the surface to a depth of 100 feet with the richest strata found inside the parcels occupied by Ecoshale.
"Ecoshale has access to the largest block of surface mine-able resource in region," says Nelson."The resource is called kerogen an organic matter with petroleum-like qualities which is heated in above ground capsules to extract oil from the shale."
The shale is mined, crushed and placed into a nearby bentonite-line earthen capsule where the oil product are extracted. It's a slow heating process that produces a high quality product. The capsule and related structures occupy about five acres.
The entire process has been patented by Ecoshale.
"Our process has a small footprint, low carbon emissions, uses no water and employs a rapid reclamation of the landscape," Nelson says. "Additionally, the bentonite lining protects against contact with surface or ground water sources throughout the process."
Getting the product from the field to the refinery remains an issue for the company, who plans to continue testing on lands in the Uintah Basin.
The test has impact on Carbon County as well. Carbon has fairly large quantities of tar sands, a product with which the process also might be utilized to remove oil without using too much water, a scarce resource in the dry desert south of the Book Cliffs.