Friday, March 11, 2005

Middle Eastern Oil? No Thanks!

Check out this article from the World Energy Council's website written by Walter Youngquist.. Here's the biggest part of it:


If a technology can be developed to economically recover oil from oil shale, the potential is tantalizingly enormous. If the containing organic material could be converted to oil, the quantities would be far beyond all known conventional oil reserves. Oil shale in great quantities exists worldwide: including in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Estonia, France, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the USA.

The term "oil shale" is a misnomer. It does not contain oil nor is it commonly shale. The organic material is chiefly kerogen, and the "shale" is usually a relatively hard rock, called marl. Properly processed, kerogen can be converted into a substance somewhat similar to petroleum. However, it has not gone through the "oil window" of heat (nature’s way of producing oil) and therefore, to be changed into an oil-like substance, it must be heated to a high temperature. By this process the organic material is converted into a liquid, which must be further processed to produce an oil which is said to be better than the lowest grade of oil produced from conventional oil deposits, but of lower quality than the upper grades of conventional oil.

There are two conventional approaches to oil shale processing. In one, the shale is fractured in-situ and heated to obtain gases and liquids by wells. The second is by mining, transporting, and heating the shale to about 450oC, adding hydrogen to the resulting product, and disposing of and stabilizing the waste. Both processes use considerable water. The total energy and water requirements together with environmental and monetary costs (to produce shale oil in significant quantities) have so far made production uneconomic. During and following the oil crisis of the 1970’s, major oil companies, working on some of the richest oil shale deposits in the world in western United States, spent several billion dollars in various unsuccessful attempts to commercially extract shale oil.

Oil shale has been burned directly as a very low grade, high ash-content fuel in a few countries such as Estonia, whose energy economy remains dominated by shale. Minor quantities of oil have been obtained from oil shale in several countries at times over many years.

With increasing numbers of countries experiencing declines in conventional oil production, shale oil production may again be pursued. One project is now being undertaken in north-eastern Australia, but it seems unlikely that shale oil recovery operations can be expanded to the point where they could make a major contribution toward replacing the daily consumption of 73 million barrels of oil worldwide.

Perhaps oil shale will eventually find a place in the world economy, but the energy demands of blasting, transport, crushing, heating and adding hydrogen, together with the safe disposal of huge quantities of waste material, are large. On a small scale, and with good geological and other favorable conditions, such as water supply, oil shale may make a modest contribution but so far shale oil remains the "elusive energy".


If we could get some petroleum companies working on extracting this stuff and processing it we could truly wean ourselves from the OPEC dependency. This would also send the price of sweet crude back down along with gasoline prices. It would be nice to pay .80 cents a gallon again.

What say you???

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