New hope for tapping vast domestic reserves of oil shale

September 22, 2008
Oil Shale
Fossils encased in an Estonian oil shale. Credit: Mark A. Wilson, Wikipedia Commons

Researchers in Canada and Turkey report discovery of a new process for economically tapping vast resources of crude oil in the United States, Canada, and other countries now locked away in rocky deposits called oil shale.

The process could boost worldwide oil supplies in the future and lead to lower prices for gasoline, diesel, and home heating oil, the researchers suggest. Their study is scheduled for the November 19 issue of ACS' Energy & Fuels.

In the study, Tayfun Babadagli and colleagues point out that oil trapped in the world's oil shale deposits exceeds the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. An estimated one trillion barrels of oil, for instance, are in the so-called Green River Formation in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. However, existing technology for recovering that oil, termed pyrolysis, is uneconomical because it requires high temperatures (about 900 degrees F.) and large energy inputs, but yields little usable oil.

The scientists describe laboratory scale experiments in which addition of inexpensive iron powder to oil shale, combined with heating with electric heating coils, substantially increased oil production — by more than 100 percent for some shales. "The experimental and numerical results show that field-scale oil recovery from oil shales by electrical heating could be technically and economically viable," the report concludes.

Article: dx.doi.org/10.1021/ef800389v

Source: ACS

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11 comments

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bmerc
3.3 / 5 (8) Sep 22, 2008
Now this is good news and I hope it pans out. It would be great if America wasn't at the whims of inbred terrorist supporting camel herders and loony tyrants such as Chavez.
CaptSpaulding
4 / 5 (4) Sep 22, 2008
While I agree with energy independance (more than most), isn't multiplying 2x(small number) almost always still a small number?
gmurphy
3.2 / 5 (6) Sep 22, 2008
don't forget the trigger happy russian psychotics, the only reason that dysfunctional country is throwing its weight around is due to the western wealth that flows into its oil coffers
jimbo92107
3 / 5 (4) Sep 22, 2008
Why is this good news? The accumulation of atmospheric carbon is dooming our planet's habitability. Are we supposed to look forward happily to driving cars through a wasteland?
jeffsaunders
3.3 / 5 (3) Sep 22, 2008
as CaptSpaulding pointed out above.

a little bit of oil * 2 is still a little bit and the cost of heating shale to extract oil - while cheaper is still a lot.

So to get this oil which will be got we are still going to be looking at an expensive product.

What this means is that with battery technology improving and electrics improving and capacitors improving - it means we will have oil for various uses as an alternative energy source in the future.
GrayMouser
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 22, 2008
Why is this good news? The accumulation of atmospheric carbon is dooming our planet's habitability. Are we supposed to look forward happily to driving cars through a wasteland?


Yes.
JerryPark
3.3 / 5 (4) Sep 23, 2008
Doesn't oil shale expand when the oil is extracted?

A better process for extracting the oil is interesting, but to use this resource, we need a plan to dispose of the residue.
deatopmg
4 / 5 (4) Sep 23, 2008
Doesn't oil shale expand when the oil is extracted?

A better process for extracting the oil is interesting, but to use this resource, we need a plan to dispose of the residue.


put it back down the hole we dug it out of! use the extra as filler for construction material.

cost effective, clean technology will eventually be developed to recover this carbon source. Until then the uS must re-open Gul island and start drilling in the minuscule fraction of the ANWR that contains reserves of another ~trillion barrels of easily recoverable oil. Pipe lines will follow.

As the US continues its accelerated slide to mediocrity the price of oil, in $, will continue to climb until OPEC abandons the dollar standard (and the 30 yr/ 30% revenue set-aside to purchase our national debt) causing a total economic collapse At that point congress may wake-up to the fact that we must tap these resources, but I doubt it. It will be too late anyway.
Egnite
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 23, 2008
Why is this good news? The accumulation of atmospheric carbon is dooming our planet's habitability. Are we supposed to look forward happily to driving cars through a wasteland?


You should read less newspapers! Where ever this oil comes from, it was originally trees/plantation millions of years ago absorbing atmospheric CO2 as plants do now. Our planet has cycled through Climate shifts and millenia onwards, this plantation is oil. Extracting and burning it will only reset the process and life will continue. The only problem for us humans will be surviving the earlier Climate shifts which I fear could be rather swift and extreme.
GrayMouser
not rated yet Sep 27, 2008
The only problem for us humans will be surviving the earlier Climate shifts which I fear could be rather swift and extreme.


Humans have done it before. We've survived an ice age, a mini-ice age, and a medieval warm period that was warmer than now.
lengould100
not rated yet May 11, 2009
Doesn't oil shale expand when the oil is extracted?

A better process for extracting the oil is interesting, but to use this resource, we need a plan to dispose of the residue.

That's only a problem if the shale is extracted for processing. If you read the article, it clearly is discussing processing "in Situ", eg. in place.

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