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Oil shale development plan aims at ensuring sustainable use of oil shale

17.12.2014

The Ministry of the Environment sent a draft on the National Development Plan for the Utilisation of Oil Shale to the Ministries to be approved; the purpose of the plan is to increase the efficiency of the use of the mineral important to Estonia, guide the research and development activities related to it and reduce negative environmental impact.

According to the principles presented in the oil shale development plan, it is of primary importance to ensure efficient and sustainable use of this mineral important to the Republic of Estonia and reduce the environmental effect of the sector. The development plan also aims to ensure the sustainable development of the oil shale industry and the supply of oil shale, while taking economic, security and social goals into account.
On the basis of the assessment of the environmental effects, the annual allowed mining rate of oil shale in the draft development plan will be 20 million tonnes per year, which is currently approved by the Riigikogu. In case of such mining rate, the estimated environmental impact of oil shale industry will not increase compared to the current situation.

Environmental Impact Assessment Expert of Maves AS Indrek Tamm explained that the negative environmental impact of the oil shale industry has lasted for decades. “As long as the environmental quality limit values are exceeded in the ambient air and the adverse impact on Natura 2000 sites persists, growth in the production volumes of the oil shale industry exceeding the current limit of oil shale mining volume is not justified. This is directly derived from the need to ensure the quality of the environment in order to protect human health and wildlife,” Tamm added.

Increasing the efficiency of the oil shale use requires a substantial increase in the added value gained from the oil shale. At the same time, it is important to limit the concurrent air and water discharge and increase the recovery of processing waste. Professor of Tallinn University of Technology Andres Siirde explained that the extension of the value chain of the use of oil shale means that application must be found for the crushed stone generated from the processing of mine waste while mining and oil shale ash of power plants by means of research and development. It is also important to find usage for semi-coke and oil shale ash, as well as waste hear in the production of shale oil. “In order to better value shale oil, it is important to find solutions for the production of motor fuels, further develop the production of chemicals based on oil shale and carry out research on the development and implementation of new and more effective oil shale processing technologies,” Andres Siirde added.

The oil shale supply lasts for 17 years if oil shale will be continuously mined with issued permits at the same annual level and during the oil shale development plan period of 2016–2030, it is necessary to establish 1–2 new mines. There are nearly 4.75 billion tonnes of oil shale reserves in the list of deposits of the Environmental Registry, of which the active reserves amount to 1.34 billion tonnes. Aside from the current nature conservation areas and areas with residential and other terrestrial restrictions, active stocks last for nearly 48 years in case the annual mining rate continues to be 20 million tonnes.

The cost of the implementation of the development plan is estimated to be 20 million euros. It is carried out on the basis on an implementation plan, initially prepared for 2016–2019. Its estimated cost of measures for four years is approximately a total of 3.5 million euros. The results of the impact indicators of the development plan are analysed after each five-year period in order to raise awareness of the changes in technologies, market condition, environmental requirements and appeared environmental impact.

The principles and directions of the development of oil shale industry will be determined for 15 years with the oil shale development plan. The preparation of the draft of the oil shale development plan has been a public process, involving the representatives of relevant state authorities, including from the Ministries and companies, local governments, organisations and non-governmental organisations, and other persons interested in the process. Experts have been also involved to receive better information and analysis on the oil shale sector.

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