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PM Backs Minister as Skepticism Emerges Over Utah Oil Shale Venture

Eesti Energia's property in Utah
Eesti Energia's property in Utah Source: Photo: ERR

The opposition has again called into question the competence of Economic Affairs Minister Juhan Parts in light of a report last week that Eesti Energia's oil shale project in Utah could bring a loss of 100 million dollars.

The issue was raised during a questions session in Parliament in which a Center Party MP asked whether Prime Minister Andrus Ansip was satisfied with Parts regarding shortcomings in the operations of Estonian Air, the opening of the electricity market, and Eesti Energia.

Ansip responded: "I am not 100 percent satisfied even with my own activities and I am not 100 percent satisfied with even a single minister. One can always try harder and bring better results, but my lack of satisfaction is certainly not at the point that there should be discussion of a minister's dismissal from office."

Concerning Eesti Energia's Utah project, Ansip said it is too early to draw conclusions and that the time for evaluation would not come until 2016.

"At least as far as I know, it can't be said that the project is currently unsuccessful. It is clear that oil shale quality and characteristics vary around the world and production technology must be adapted to different types of oil shale. And I don't see anything unheard-of or anything that could have come as a major surprise to Eesti Energia," Ansip said.

The project could lose 100 million dollars, Ansip said, but it could also bring a profit of several billion.

"I believe the project will be successful, otherwise the Eesti Energia management would not have undertaken it. If it is unsuccessful, for which I think there is a very small probability, then I expect that the Eesti Energia management will be held responsible,“ Ansip said.

Eesti Ekspress reported last week that the state power company's oil shale project in Utah is in trouble due to difficulties in extracting oil from the local shale using Estonian technology.

"Engineers are desperately searching the internet and libraries for information about their competitors' operating methods [...] and visited US company Shale Technologies, which owns test plants in Colorado,“ the weekly newspaper wrote.

According to the paper's sources, Eesti Energia CEO Sandor Liive has said privately that the project is taking longer than had been expected.

Last fall, the company ran its first tests in Germany, to where it had transported 600 tons of Utah oil shale.

"The tests are not promising,“ the company said in an internal document obtained by Eesti Ekspress.

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