The main oil shale industry in the Soviet Union was concentrated on the Baltic Basin. Estonia both mines it for export and to fuel its power stations. There are two kinds of oil shale in Estonia – Dictyonema argillite (a type of claystone) and kukersite.
Estonia's shale is an important resource and money-spinner for the national economy. Estonia's oil shale deposits account for just 17% of the total deposits found with in the European Union, but they are used to generate 90% of Estonia's its power supply. The oil shale industry in Estonia employs 7,500 people, or about 1% of the labour force. and accounts for about 4% of the nations gross domestic product.
The first written information about oil shale in Estonia were made by August Wilhelm Hupel in 1777. According to the works of Peter Simon Pallas, the occurrence of burning rock on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland as part of his travel notes in the 18th century. Johann Anton Güldenstädt also noted this phenomena a few years later. Estonia's former Minister of Education Paul Kogerman, said Estonia's oil shale was discovered by a professor of University of Tartu Otto Moritz Ludwig von Engelhardt.
The first and unsuccessful attempt at an open-cast oil shale pit and plans to start oil production was undertaken in 1838.
The modern utilization of oil shale commenced in 1916, with production beginning in 1921 and the generation of power from oil shale in 1924. the Soviets were keen to develop this early oil supply as an alternative to relying only on Trans-Caucasian and the Kuban for oil. The oil shale burning Nava Power Plants opened in the 1960's and grew in the 1970's.
Latvia, Lithuania and Kaliningrad Oblast have small reserves as well. All of them have some peat and small scale bitumen and natural gas reserves. Lithuania, Latvia and Kaliningrad Oblast depend on nuclear power. The nation of Lithuania has an energy law, the Energetikos teisė.
The governments of Latvia and Estonia have considered nuclear power as a way to cut their energy dependence on Russia. Estonia's oil shale derive oil provides some 90% of their energy need as of date.
Estonia had become the leading producer of shale oil in the world by 2005 (China has taken that position by 2011). The Narva Power Plants are 2 of the world's biggest. By 2007, 6 oil shale mines, both open cast or underground were actively extracting oil shale.
Estonia had produced 345,000 tonnes of shale oil in 2005, of which 222,000 tonnes were exported, 8,000 tonnes were utilised for electricity generation and 98,000 tonnes for steam heating generation.
In 2005, Estonia mined 14.8 million tonnes of oil shale. During the same period, mining permits were issued for almost 24 million tonnes, with applications for mining an additional 26 million tonnes. Estonia has adopted the "National Development Plan for the Use of Oil Shale 2008-2015", which limits the annual mining of oil shale to 20 million tonnes. The firms that were involved in the oil shale mining are Eesti Põlevkivi, Viru Keemia Grupp], Kiviõli Keemiatööstus and Kunda Nordic Cement.
As of May 2007, Estonia had started the globally significant production and then accounted for 70% of the world's processed oil shale.
The Soviet era Aidu open-cast mine closed, but is environmentally rehabilitated. The Narva open-cast mine is one of the opencast mines sill in use as of 2005.
Eesti Energia is Estonian company operates in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland extracting oil shale. There are 3 shale oil producers in Estonia: VKG Oil (a subsidiary of Viru Keemia Grupp), Narva Oil Plant (a subsidiary of Eesti Energia) and Kiviõli Keemiatööstus. New permits for new operations were The firms that were involved in the oil shale mining are Eesti Põlevkivi, Viru Keemia Grupp], Kiviõli Keemiatööstus and Kunda Nordic Cement. In Lithuania, Norway's Statoil operates a chain of petrol stations. Statoil's offices are located in Lithuania's capital Vilnius.
Fossils in Ordovician period kukersite oil shale, northern Estonia.