What can be made from a million tonnes of oil shale?

Estonia’s largest oil shale company Eesti Energia celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. What has oil shale given to Estonia? Do we even need an oil shale industry?

One way to answer such general questions is to know and analyse the impact of oil shale use. What can be made from a million tonnes of oil shale?

1 million tonnes = 5% of mining capacity

A million tonnes of oil shale is 5% of the industry’s annual mining capacity. Estonia’s oil shale deposits are the tenth largest in the world, meaning we are a country rich in oil shale. Estonia’s register of natural resources lists 4.5 billion tonnes of oil shale, of which nearly 1.2 billion or almost one-fifth is considered minable. The oil shale industry uses about 20 million tonnes every year, meaning that easily accessible resources will last for at least 60 years. After this, more than 160 years’ worth of oil shale would still remain in the ground at current mining volumes. However, it might not be possible to generate electricity from oil shale in 40–50 years because of the European climate policy or because a renewable energy revolution might mean it is no longer necessary to extract energy from under the ground by the middle of the 21st century.

Eesti Energia’s underground mine “Estonia”

1 million tonnes = Estonia’s transport fuel need for one month

When we use Enefit280, the newest technology for the combined production of electricity and liquid fuel, the energy we get from a million tonnes of oil shale could cover 4% of Estonia’s electricity consumption. In addition, we could produce 120,000 tonnes of liquid fuel, which would cover Estonia’s transport fuel needs for one month, while 40% of the liquid fuel would be left over and could be sold as fuel oil.

1 million tonnes = 110 million euros in investment

Mining each tonne of oil shale and processing it into electricity will need 110 million euros of investment over the next ten years.

Investment will fund a lot of building work that will employ local builders and generate tax income. Investment in the oil shale industry is in the interests of both the state and the oil shale companies.

1 million tonnes = 420 jobs

A million tonnes of oil shale provides nearly 420 people with jobs in the oil plant and mines. Each job in the Ida-Virumaa oil shale industry is accompanied by at least one job indirectly created in services, transport or some other sector. The formula is simple: a million tonnes of oil shale = 420 mine and oil industry employees with incomes above the national average = a total of 840 jobs dependent on the oil shale industry.

1 million tonnes = €30 million in GDP

Using a million tonnes of oil shale in the oil industry adds 30 million euros to Estonian GDP. In 2013, the total contribution of the oil shale industry to Estonian GDP was 370 million euros. However, the state of Estonia as the owner of the oil shale resource can earn value from this resource only when someone is ready to invest hundreds of millions of euros in mining and processing the oil shale.

So using a million tonnes of oil shale brings 110 million euros of investment to Estonia, 420 jobs in the industry and another 420 indirectly related jobs, plus 30 million euros in additional GDP. Furthermore, a million tonnes of oil shale can give us transport fuel for a month and the electricity we need for half a month in summer. These are the figures that should be considered when making decisions that affect the industry’s future.
See in real time how Eesti Energia creates value for our country »

You can read more about oil shale and the oil shale industry in Estonia’s first popular scientific book about oil shale “Kukersite and Mudstone. The Story of Our Energy”, which was published last year on the occasion of Eesti Energia’s 75th anniversary. The book, whose popularity surpassed all expectations, will take you through the history of energy and tell you all about oil shale and what can be made from it.
The oil shale book in the Rahva Raamat online bookstore »