Thursday, February 16, 2012

Utah tar sands still seeking investors despite questions

Eastern Utah’s tar sands are just a year or so from producing their first commercial quantities of oil — if environmental appeals are settled and the company planning to mine can attract investors.

Two oil shale mining companies contend they’re right behind and said Wednesday at the Governor’s Energy Development Summit that the state is poised for “the next big play” in energy.

All of them — U.S. Oil Sands, Enefit American Oil and Red Leaf Resources — rejected naysayers’ claims that their technologies are unproven on a commercial scale. But Canada-based U.S. Oil Sands acknowledged it needs investors before it can produce 2,000 barrels a day at its PR Springs mine, which it envisions within a year and a half.

Opponents of the southern Uintah County project on state-leased lands have appealed the company’s state permit and enlisted a University of Utah scientist’s calculations to warn that the solvent will send cancer-causing tar compounds into the groundwater and toward the Colorado River. Some also suspect there won’t be sufficient commercial backing for the mine. Salt Lake Tribune