Re: Shell's Ingenious Approach To Oil Shale Is Pretty Slick

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Sun Sep 04 2005 - 00:57:17 EDT

And the (enormous amount of) energy for the heat and freezing comes from
where? and does what to the cost of the extracted petroleum?
If I recall, steam has been used for this purpose with marginal results.
More from the guys who know this better than I........

janice matchett wrote:

> Comments follow (refresh your browser if you click link):
> Shell's Ingenious Approach To Oil Shale Is Pretty Slick
> <>Rocky Mountain
> News ^
> <>
> | Saturday, September 3, 2005 | Linda Seebach
> Posted on 09/03/2005 4:58:07 PM EDT by Mount Athos
> When oil prices last touched record highs - actually, after adjusting
> for inflation we're not there yet, but given the effects of Hurricane
> Katrina, we probably will be soon - politicians' response was more
> hype than hope. Oil shale in Colorado! Tar sands in Alberta! OPEC be
> damned!
> Remember the Carter-era Synfuels Corp. debacle? It was a response to
> the '70s energy shortages, closed down in 1985 after accomplishing
> essentially nothing at great expense, which is pretty much a
> description of what usually happens when the government tries to take
> over something that the private sector can do better. Private actors
> are, after all, spending their own money.
> Since 1981, Shell researchers at the company's division of
> "unconventional resources" have been spending their own money trying
> to figure out how to get usable energy out of oil shale. Judging by
> the presentation the Rocky Mountain News heard this week, they think
> they've got it.
> Shell's method, which it calls "in situ conversion," is simplicity
> itself in concept but exquisitely ingenious in execution. Terry
> O'Connor, a vice president for external and regulatory affairs at
> Shell Exploration and Production, explained how it's done (and they
> have done it, in several test projects):
> Drill shafts into the oil-bearing rock. Drop heaters down the shaft.
> Cook the rock until the hydrocarbons boil off, the lightest and most
> desirable first. Collect them.
> Please note, you don't have to go looking for oil fields when you're
> brewing your own.
> On one small test plot about 20 feet by 35 feet, on land Shell owns,
> they started heating the rock in early 2004. "Product" - about
> one-third natural gas, two-thirds light crude - began to appear in
> September 2004. They turned the heaters off about a month ago, after
> harvesting about 1,500 barrels of oil.
> While we were trying to do the math, O'Connor told us the answers.
> Upwards of a million barrels an acre, a billion barrels a square mile.
> And the oil shale formation in the Green River Basin, most of which is
> in Colorado, covers more than a thousand square miles - the largest
> fossil fuel deposits in the world.
> Wow.
> They don't need subsidies; the process should be commercially feasible
> with world oil prices at $30 a barrel. The energy balance is
> favorable; under a conservative life-cycle analysis, it should yield
> 3.5 units of energy for every 1 unit used in production. The process
> recovers about 10 times as much oil as mining the rock and crushing
> and cooking it at the surface, and it's a more desirable grade.
> Reclamation is easier because the only thing that comes to the surface
> is the oil you want.
> And we've hardly gotten to the really ingenious part yet. While the
> rock is cooking, at about 650 or 750 degrees Fahrenheit, how do you
> keep the hydrocarbons from contaminating ground water? Why, you build
> an ice wall around the whole thing. As O'Connor said, it's
> counterintuitive.
> But ice is impermeable to water. So around the perimeter of the
> productive site, you drill lots more shafts, only 8 to 12 feet apart,
> put in piping, and pump refrigerants through it. The water in the
> ground around the shafts freezes, and eventually forms a 20- to
> 30-foot ice barrier around the site.
> Next you take the water out of the ground inside the ice wall, turn up
> the heat, and then sit back and harvest the oil until it stops coming
> in useful quantities. When production drops, it falls off rather quickly.
> That's an advantage over ordinary wells, which very gradually get less
> productive as they age.
> Then you pump the water back in. (Well, not necessarily the same
> water, which has moved on to other uses.) It's hot down there so the
> water flashes into steam, picking up loose chemicals in the process.
> Collect the steam, strip the gunk out of it, repeat until the water
> comes out clean. Then you can turn off the heaters and the chillers
> and move on to the next plot (even saving one or two of the sides of
> the ice wall, if you want to be thrifty about it).
> Most of the best territory for this astonishing process is on land
> under the control of the Bureau of Land Management. Shell has applied
> for a research and development lease on 160 acres of BLM land, which
> could be approved by February. That project would be on a large enough
> scale so design of a commercial facility could begin.
> The 2005 energy bill altered some provisions of the 1920 Minerals
> Leasing Act that were a deterrent to large-scale development, and also
> laid out a 30-month timetable for establishing federal regulations
> governing commercial leasing.
> Shell has been deliberately low-key about their R&D, wanting to avoid
> the hype, and the disappointment, that surrounded the last oil-shale
> boom. But O'Connor said the results have been sufficiently encouraging
> they are gradually getting more open. Starting next week, they will be
> holding public hearings in northwest Colorado.
> I'll say it again. Wow.
> *
> do they prevent an enormous loss of liquid via seepage? 46
> <>
> From my understanding, isn't that what the ice walls are designed to
> accomplish? I understand that that would create a walled structure
> leaving the bottom open. I assume though that the shale and rock would
> maybe act as a liner on the bottom? I'm sure the engineers thinking of
> this already figured that out. 51
> <>
> Perhaps that's it. If SOME layer of shale will or can be forced to act
> as the ''bottom'' of the ''cauldron'', then the deal is sealed.
> I think you're probably spot on or very close. I should have thought
> it through a bit more, evidently. 76
> <>
> Study reveals huge U.S. oil-shale field
> Seattle Times
> <>
> By Jennifer Talhelm, AP
> Thursday, September 1, 2005 - 12:00 AM
> WASHINGTON The United States has an oil reserve at least three times
> that of Saudi Arabia locked in oil-shale deposits beneath federal land
> in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, according to a study released yesterday.
> But the researchers at the RAND think tank caution the federal
> government to go carefully, balancing the environmental and economic
> impacts with development pressure to prevent an oil-shale bust later.
> "We've got more oil in this very compact area than the entire Middle
> East," said James Bartis, RAND senior policy researcher and the
> report's lead author. ...
> For years, the industry and the government considered oil shale a
> rock that produces petroleum when heated too expensive to be a
> feasible source of oil. However, oil prices, which spiked above $70 a
> barrel this week, combined with advances in technology could soon make
> it possible to tap the estimated 500 billion to 1.1 trillion
> recoverable barrels, the report found.
> The study, sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, comes
> about a month after the president signed a new energy policy
> dramatically reversing the nation's approach to oil shale and opening
> the door within a few years to companies that want to tap deposits on
> public lands.
> The report also says oil-shale mining, above-ground processing and
> disposing of spent shale cause significant adverse environmental
> impacts. Shell Oil is working on a process that would heat the oil
> shale in place, which could have less effect on the environment. 53
> <>[snip]
> For those interested, my posts are here:
> And here:
> ~ Janice
Received on Sat, 03 Sep 2005 21:57:17 -0700

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