Field of dreams: Queensland mine will produce oil, then green energy, all in one spot

The outback town of Julia Creek could become a significant oil field under a plan that also includes mining vanadium for use in batteries.

Jul 23, 2020, updated Jul 23, 2020
Julia Creek. (Photo: Unsplash)

Julia Creek. (Photo: Unsplash)

QEM claims it would yield as much as 181kg of oil per tonne of oil shale at its Julia Creek site, a result that is more than double those previously reported.

The project plan is mine the oil shale that sits over the top of a vanadium resource.

Oil shale has a contentious history in Queensland after Southern Pacific Petroleum threw millions of dollars at trying to develop the Stuart project near Gladstone almost 20 years ago, but failed after poor trial results and a concerted environmental campaign by activists.

The QEM project would differ because it doesn’t plan to use a retort. It has been calculated to have 2760 million tonnes with an average vanadium content of 0.3 per cent and contingent oil resource of 783 million barrels with an average yield of 53 litres a tonne.

QEM said the most recent work was to investigate the potential to increse oil yields from the shale deposit through the use of solvents.

“The test work indicates that substantially high oil yields are possible at Julia Creek, compared to extraction processing without solvent, such as direct retorting,” the company said.

“These impressive results provide greater clarity and flexibility for QEM to implement a balanced vanadium versus oil shale recovery strategy, which is a crucial factor ion minimising capital cost expenditure, minimising operating costs and maximising profit margins.

QEM managing director Gavin Loyden said the company would now build on the momentum provided by the better yields and carry out more optimisation tests and design.

“Our task now is to determine the optimum processing and extraction method which balances and maximises the returns we can make from both vanadium and the hydrocarbons available at Julia Creek,” he said.

He said domestic sources of hydrocarbons were likely to be highly valued in the future.

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