Keywords: oil shale, eco-efficiency, environmental pressure, energy production, post-Kyoto mechanisms, electricity sector, Estonia, industrial ecology, environmental impact, low energy density, geology, chemical composition, kukersite
Ecological efficiency of the oil shale electricity sector of Estonia
Estonia is a typical postsocialist country with an inefficient energy sector, albeit uniquely based on oil shale mining and burning. This article comprehensively analyses the efficiency of the oil shale energy industry from mining to end use. The overall efficiency of oil shale energetics was estimated to be less than 20% (17% in 2002), with the losses attributed to wasting of co-produced thermal energy, coupled with substantial inefficiencies in the mining of oil shale. The Estonian oil shale energy sector is an example of an old-fashioned linear throughput industrial system developed in direct contradiction with the principles of cleaner production. The huge environmental impact of the oil shale industry is compounded by the low energy density and geological characteristics of the deposit, the chemical composition of kukersite and the cumulative nature of environmental destruction.