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Environmental effects of oil shale usages have slightly decreased

Environmental effects of oil shale usages have slightly decreased
Environmental effects of oil shale usages have slightly decreased

Report on the use oil shale which indicates that, in 2012, oil shale was mined significantly less, i.e. 14.9 million tons, compared to the annually allowed maximum rate, was sent to ministries for coordination by the Minister of the Environment Keit Pentus-Rosimannus. However, quantity of mined oil shale has increased compared to five years ago. Oil shale ash quantities decreased while waste recovery rates increased.

"Because oil shale is important industry as well as major burden on the environment - the vast majority of Estonian waste, water consumption and air pollution results from it, then it is important to reduce negative side effects. We in the Ministry in the Environment have been very strict regarding this issue and to oil shale industry's credit I can say, that positive developments are occurring," the Minister of the Environment Keit Pentus-Rosimannus commented.

Compared to the data of 2012, positive changes are visible. Although the quantity of semi-coke of coal, which occurs from using oil shale, has slightly increased. Semi-coke of coal has been used in many ways, recently for covering old terricones on oil shale areas. In the near future, there is a plan to use semi-coke of coal in cement industry. This is also the case with the ash, which is a by-product of oil shale usage and processing and recovery of which increased.

Compared to 2007, reduction of C02 emissions has more than doubled, because relevant appliances were installed for four energy units of the Estonian power plant.

Also, more waste has been re-used. For example, waste rock (limestone) has been used in road contraction for making the necessary gravel. In 2012, 8.7 million tons, i.e. 92.6% waste rock was used from waste rock produced that year. Usually it is possible to use 30-40 percent of waste rock as a gravel in road construction, concrete production and fill materials of construction bases.

"Companies have made intensive investments and introduced better technology in order to reduce pressures on the environment stemming from mining and processing oil shale," the Minister of the Environment said. In spite of decrease in the proportion of oil shale used for electricity production, volume of oil shale mining has increased 0.9 million tons in 2012 compared to the baseline in 2007. The growth largely results from increase in shale oil production. In 2012, shale oil in total of 26 130.8 TJ was produced.

Efficiency of oil shale can be increased by valuing it, main known way of which is establishing oil industry and chemicals production. Because energy produced by direct burning of oil shale has decreased and the share of shale oil has grown, resource-efficiency has also increased.CO2 emission rates have slightly decreased compared to 2011. However, great losses of oil shale accompanying underground mining that reach up to 35%. Thus, it is still necessary to investigate further possibilities of refilling so called downright felling of mining galleries. Downright felling means that ground of a very large area above depleted mine galleries is declined at once for preventing uneven ground subsidence, and thus, preserving the landscape. "Companies have to pay more attention to new technologies in order to reduce mining losses which, in turn, result in more efficient oil shale mining and utilisation," the Minister of the Environment said.

For promoting the subject area, research and development projects were carried out, the aim of which was to raise the level of development of the science of oil shale sphere and to endorse the popularity of professions related to oil shale at levels of higher and vocational education.

National Development Plan for the Utilisation of Oil Shale is a strategic founding document which handles the use of oil shale and development of necessary technology until 2015 and, presented aims and measures of which act as a base for programming of the state budget instruments. A new development programme for 2016-2030 is currently being drafted.


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