Red Leaf Resources Unproven Ten-Acre Oil Shale Capsules Likely to Pollute the Air, Water, and Environment

Rob Dubuc“EcoShale technology is likely an Eco-nightmare. Until Red Leaf Resources can prove its capsules will not harm our water and air, oil shale needs to stay in the ground.”

– Rob Dubuc, Staff Attorney, Utah Office

Red Leaf Plans to Build a Prototype 7.5-Acre Capsule to Cook Oil Shale

Red Leaf Resources plans to develop oil shale in eastern Utah, and has gotten a permit to develop a prototype 7.5-acre capsule to test the company’s “EcoShale” technology. There is nothing about the process that is ecologically friendly. The prototype, funded by Total, a French company, will be a 3/4-scale version of the company’s giant ten-acre clay capsules. The process involves piling in oil shale, inserting heating elements, burying the capsule in dirt, and then heating the capsule up to 725 degrees for three to six months.

Experts Concerned Red Leaf Resources Technology Will Pollute Air and Water

Under its permits, Red Leaf must prove its new ten-acre capsule technology is viable and will not pollute Utah water or air before it can secure a commercial development permit.  Experts in the field doubt that this technology will work without cracking the clay capsules and releasing toxic products into the air and water.

Oil shale is neither oil nor gas. Oil shale is kerogen, a waxy precursor to oil, locked into shale rock. Given a few million years of heat and pressure, the kerogen in shale would in theory naturally yield oil. No commercial oil shale development currently exists in the U.S.  Research continues by speculators to develop a means to produce oil from oil shale on a commercial level in the U.S. Oil shale is one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet, requiring strip mining to access the material, and unproven technologies to turn the material into fuel.  The process needed to create the fuel results in the release of more greenhouse gases than from burning coal. For more on the environmental nightmare of oil shale, see our oil shale overview page.

Western Resource Advocates Has Stopped Red Leaf Resources Commercial Development – For Now

Red Leaf Resources had originally planned to commercially build 118 ten-acre capsules without the technology being proven. Thanks to Western Resource Advocates’ legal challenge, the Utah Division of Water Quality agreed to prevent construction of these commercial capsules from proceeding until the technology was proven through construction and testing of a prototype.

The Red Leaf prototype process is in the initial research phase, and the company recently announced a two-year delay in construction of the prototype capsule. Proof of concept is not expected until 2020.  Notably, TomCo is another company that has licensed the prototype technology and is awaiting the results of the prototype to proceed with their own development.

Air, Water, Wildlife, and Human Health and Safety Must Be Protected

Western Resource Advocates will continue to monitor plans for oil shale development and ensure that permitting does not proceed before testing is completed and impacts to air, water, and human health and safety can be verified. It is our opinion that there is no safe means to develop this resource and oil shale should remain in the ground.  Rather than pushing to develop these dirty fuels, cleaner energy such as wind and solar should be the priority.

Project Staff

Rob Dubuc

Rob Dubuc

Staff Attorney, Utah Office

Joro Walker

General Counsel