Eesti Energia Shale Oil Plant Delayed to Next Year, CEO Says

Eesti Energia AS, Estonia’s largest utility, will delay the start of the world’s biggest shale oil plant to next year due to technological problems, Chief Executive Officer Sandor Liive said.

The Enefit280 plant in Auvere, north-eastern Estonia, is about six months behind the initial plan of starting in September, Liive told Bloomberg in an interview today in the capital, Tallinn. The plant, due to process 280 tons of oil shale an hour, would exceed the capacity of peers in Brazil and China, the only other shale oil producers, and double Eesti Energia’s oil output to 10,000 barrels a day, Liive said.

“The launch is being delayed into next year,” Liive said. “We’ll have to wait for the 50,000 tons of oil we hoped to get from the new plant this year.”

Estonia is the only country that depends for most of its energy supply on oil shale, a sedimentary rock from which petroleum-like oil can be extracted by heating. The fastest- growing economy in the European Union last year expects to reduce its reliance on oil shale in electricity generation to meet renewable energy goals, while expanding the use of the resource in more profitable production of liquid fuels to remain self-sufficient in energy and boost exports.

Privately-owned Viru Keemia Grupp AS, now Estonia’s largest oil producer, and state-owned Eesti Energia have a combined shale oil output of about 500,000 tons a year, with total revenue of about $180 million in 2010 from oil operations. Both aim to start refining their oil, now mainly used for heating and ship fuel, from 2016 to make diesel and gasoline. Their combined output may be as much as 40,000 barrels a day, according to plans published by both companies.

Eesti Energia’s new plant is the first to combine shale extraction and combusting oil shale in a boiler to produce electricity for added efficiency and less pollution at twice the capacity of the company’s existing units, Liive said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ott Ummelas in Tallinn at oummelas@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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