Yesterday the Newman Government announced a new oil shale policy that it will allow the development of a commercial shale industry in Queensland but leaves in place the existing 20 year moratorium suspending development of the McFarlane oil shale deposit near Proserpine.
The policy will set rigorous environmental controls on the industry and will allow existing oil shale operator Queensland Energy Resources Ltd (QER) to progress its trial plant at Gladstone to commercial stage.
The rights to several large oil shale resources in Queensland are currently held by QER, who will now be able to proceed directly to commercial production given their pilot plant near Gladstone had successfully demonstrated the viability of its processing technology.
To date, there has been extremely limited commercial application of oil shale in Australia and overseas and for this reason all proposed oil shale developments and activities will be subject to detailed environmental assessments on a project-by-project basis. Under the new policy, proposals will be assessed on their merits and will require a trial stage to determine the feasibility and environmental performance of any unproven technologies.
The approval process for any oil shale development will require operators to adopt best practice environmental management techniques and comprehensive monitoring of the process, and its emissions, wastes and impact on the community and environment. Existing and new operators in the oil shale industry will need to prepare full Environmental Impact Statements for their projects.
In Australia the largest oil shale deposits are in Queensland with oil shale deposits totalling more than 20 billion barrels, with major deposits located in areas such as Yarwun and Proserpine.
The oil shale industry has the potential to create a large number of new jobs in Queensland, including thousands of jobs in the construction phase of oil shale projects alone, and provide royalties and other economic benefits for regional communities and the broader economy.