A Grand Junction company has leased more than a square mile of land in Utah in which it will test its plans to collect oil and natural gas from rock heated by microwave technology.
Qmast LLC has a three-year exploration and demonstration lease for the site about 50 miles from Grand Junction, Peter Kearl, president and chief science officer, said.
The lease is with Utah’s Schools and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, which deals with lands dedicated at statehood to fund schools and other institutions. It frequently assembles those lands in areas known to contain minerals.
“They have a really good system over there working with the state and not a lot of federal oversight,” Kearl said.
“Colorado was not very conducive” to such leases and Kearl said he preferred not to deal with the Bureau of Land Management, which administers the oil shale lands of western Colorado, the richest such deposits in the world.
Qmast, however, will remain headquartered in Grand Junction, where it is part of the Rural Jump-Start program in which start-up businesses with no in-state competition can operate without paying state income and other taxes for eight years.
Students at Colorado Mesa University will be involved in the project, with two interns initially expected to be involved, Kearl said.
After the expiration of the three-year exploration and demonstration lease on 678.40 acres, Qmast can exercise a 10-year production lease with an option for 10 more years after that, at an 8 percent royalty rate.
Qmast plans to use microwaves to heat oil shale in place and collect freed-up oil and gas using trucks specially designed for the task.
“We have a core group together and hope pretty soon to start hiring several engineers” for the next steps in development, Kearl said.