RED tape and money is all that stands before a vital industry for Gladstone.
Upscaling Gladstone's demonstration oil shale plant, which produces diesel, hinges on government approval and finding potential investors.
Owners referred the next stage to the federal Environment Department this week.
Although Queensland Energy Resources' demonstration plant is scaling down to minimum staffing by the end of the month, it seeks to secure up to $1 billion from investors for a commercial project.
QER site superintendent Bruce Andersen said in his weekly Observer column Fuel for Thought that the federal Environment Department referral was the next stage of the project.
"The first formal step towards environmental approval and with that process will come continuing community consultation," he said.
"We'll also continue to work towards securing investment for our next stage - a commercial facility producing around 8000 barrels of ultra-low sulphur diesel per day."
He said EcoFest had provided a great opportunity for those at QER to explain the technology and processes to interested community members.
QER began the two-year development program in October 2011, successfully producing the diesel and aviation fuel for testing and certification.
The demonstration project has reduced gradually over the past six months from 50 employees, and will have just five as it undergoes care and maintenance while waiting for the next phase of engineering work.
Last year the State Government lifted a ban on oil shale mining, which allowed QER to seek approval for a commercial operation.
An Environment Department spokesperson said the department was currently looking at the Gladstone New Fuels Development Project - Stage 2A proposal to see whether it needed to be assessed under national environment law.
"At this stage, a decision on whether federal assessment is needed is due on July 8," the spokesperson said.
"If it does need federal approval, it will be subjected to a thorough environmental assessment that will include another opportunity for public comment."
The proposal is open for public comment until June 26.
For further information see here.
For further information on the assessment process see here.
QUESTION: How much diesel could QER produce from a 48kg slab of oil shale rock?
Out of 400 guesses, eight-year-old Dannika Wass from Tannum Sands was the winner of QER's EcoFest competition, with 4.01 litres, which was the closest to the correct answer of 4.1 litres.