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Is it possible to live without oil imports?

With the current high prices for the natural oil and refined petroleum products plus their tendency to increase, the involvement of shale oil into the fuel and energy balance for the production of synthetic crude oil and natural gas is economically advantageous. With production costs of oil shale around USD 10-12 per ton and processing cost of USD 2 per ton, the oil shale processing is cost-effective even at the oil price of 40 USD for a barrel.

In this regard, countries with industrial resources of oil shale have resumed studies of their own oil shale stocks and search for advanced technologies for their processing. There have been announced various tenders for the development oil fields in Jordan, Israel, Morocco and Egypt. Russian industrialists who realize the prospects of synthetic oil production are acquiring rights for the oil shale deposits in the Leningrad region, Volga region and in the Timan-Pechora field. Estonian company Eesti energia began construction of «Enifit-280», designed by Estonian and German experts on the basis of the Russian UTT-3000, but having twice the performance due to the use of a fluidized bed boiler. According to Russian experts, possibility of «Enifit» promotion to the level of industrial use is not higher than that of ATP retort built in PRC, which could not be launched for more than 3 years (manufacturer - Thyssen Krupp, Germany). However, both of these projects indicate the willingness of companies to bear the risky expenses associated with the field of oil shale processing.

In order to determine the conditioned oil shale reserves and production volumes of the target output, it is necessary to conduct analytical researches of oil shale representative samples in a specialized laboratory; the results of such research will be taken into account when choosing the methods of oil shale field development and hydrocarbons extraction from the oil shale of different composition. These researches should precede the construction of companies and subsequently accompany their launch for the development of liquid and gaseous oil shale products deep processing technologies in order to obtain not only the burning oil, diesel fuel and gasoline, but also thiophenes, phenols, alkylresorcinol and other valuable products.

Founded in St. Petersburg, TTU-Ltd, whose members have practical experience in oil shale research, design and operation of the oil shale processing enterprises has a patent on the technology and equipment for oil shale processing using a solid carrier method. Today, TTU-Ltd. is the only company in Russian Federation which specializes in this area. Oil shale processing technology proposed by the company had been mastered in a large industrial scale; as for its performance, it is ahead of most existing technologies for over 15 years. Various domestic and foreign firms are interested in its acquisition; Estonian company VKG Oil AS has acquired License for the technology from the TTU-Ltd. and has already constructed an oil shale processing plant. All of the international customers require conducting researches for the determination of oil shale conditioned reserves and output of the target products using the proposed processing technology, which made the specialized laboratory a world’s leader in the field of oil shale research.
In today's world, the following technologies of oil shale thermal processing are used on a large industrial scale:
- enriched large-sized oil shale processing in mine gas generators ("Kiviter"),
- enriched large-sized oil shale processing by the method of "Petrosiks" (mine gas generator’s analogue),
- processing the oil shale of any fractional composition and quality by the method of solid heat carrier ("Galoter"),
- oil shale processing in mine gas generators using external electrical heating,
- processing of low-grade raw materials (brown coal, lignites and shales) using the Lurgi-Ruhrgas process.
Russian oil shale processing technology by the method of solid heat carrier high-speed pyrolysis is based on the Galoter process. It is incomparably more efficient than other technologies due to the fact that it converts 91% of the potential oil shale heat into the useful (marketable) production, while the other technologies do not exceed 60%. Oil shale processing plants which use this technology, process all of the mined shale, while the gas-generating technologies use approximately 30% of mined oil shale.

The author of this process is a Russian scientist Igor Galynker, who worked at the G. M. Krzhizhanovsky Power Engineering Institute ("ENIN", Moscow).

This process lies in the fact that heat necessary for thermal decomposition of raw materials is provided by its own hot ashes mixed with raw materials in a continuous process and re-heated in the furnace using the heat generated by burning coke residue feedstock obtained during the oil shale processing.

The method was studied on the stand and pilot plants with the capacity of up to 200 tons of shale input per day. In 1966, UTT-500 plant (500 tons of the shale per day) was commissioned at "Kiviõli" Oil Shale Processing & Chemicals Plant, Estonia. This plant had been exploited until the launch of more powerful plants at the Estonian electric capacity station and was dismantled in 1981. During the exploitation period of UTT-500, it was processed about 2.06 mln. tons of shale, received 276 thousand tons of the commercial shale oil and more than 109mln.m3 of the semi-coke gas with the combustion value of 10000-11000kcal/nm3 (41.9-46.1MJ/ nm3); the process and equipment analyses have been conducted.

Based on the design experience, exploitation and researches, FSUE “SPAEP” (previously - Teploproect, L.О.), Orgenergostroy, L.F. and Lengiproneftekhim in association with ENIN, ESSR Institute of Chemistry, Scientific and Research Institute of Shale had developed the design of the head UTT-3000 plant with capacity of 3330 tons of shale per day (1 mln. tons per year). In 1980-81, two UTT-3000 plants were commissioned at the Estonian electric capacity station on the project of Teploelectroproject L.O; they operate until today, maintaining a high commercial efficiency. So, the scientific method of the low-grade solid fuels processing was implemented in the modern technology of the shale processing. This technology was studied and mastered on a large industrial scale, which enables determining the initial shale required, the production scope and output production characteristics, power inputs and the environmental impact.

The positive experience of creation and operation of UTT-3000 plant in the city of Narva and UTT-500 unit in Kiviõli was sufficient for construction of "Petroter" in Kohtla-Jarve, Estonia, on the basis of UTT-3000 units on the project of "SPbAtomenergoproekt". The plant was commissioned in December, 2009. In 2011 the plant processed its first million tons of oil shale and reached the performance indicators that exceed the design ones. Environmental characteristics of the production meet the European Union environmental regulations (the plant is located within the city limits). Construction of the second plant has been launched.