Digging for oil? They’re trying it in the Basin

Richard Shaw – The Sun Advocate

People drill for oil, but can they mine for it?

The answer is yes as oil shale and tar sands development begin to take place in earnest just over the ridge Carbon County residents call the Book Cliffs.

Red Leaf Resources is preparing to now go into full commercial development and production about 40 miles southwest of Vernal, and the process for getting the oil out of oil shale is by extracting it from the ground, putting the rock into cells, applying 900 degree temperatures, at which point after 210 days, oil of different grades, water and gases that could be captured to continue the heating process come out of the rock.

As graders and earth haulers were scraping the ground around the test facility last week, getting ready to install new cells to produce the extracts, project manager Les Thompson said that he hopes the road known in the Uintah Basin as Seep Ridge Road is soon extended from the Uintah County line to I-70. Not only then could the company be closer to a rail line to transport oil but they could also utilize the work force that is situated (a group that understands mining) in Emery and Carbon Counties.

“If those miners could get here, we can use that workforce to help us mine this shale,” he said. “Right now there is no viable way for them to out site.”

The drive right now from Carbon County to the site would take about three and a half hours one way. With that road installed it could be as little as two hours.

At this point the road is a two lane highway from U.S. 40 about 14 miles west of Vernal to the Uintah/Grand County line. The road, improved and paved only a few years ago by the Uintah County Special Transportation District, is now viable for all kinds of travel, unlike how it was when oil and gas development in the area first began in a big way. (…)

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