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Sunday, September 04, 2005

We could kiss Saudi goodbye: VERY cool news on the fuel front

The boys at Shell R&D have been busy: "a billion barrels a square mile" would make the United States energy independent until the end of time. From Rocky Mountain News via Scripps:
...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.


There's plenty more at the story's main link. This may be the first really good news on this kind of front to report in a long, long time.


Anonymous said...

Just watch the enviromentalists try to prevent this new development from coming true. They'll use all their resources, and the resources of the government, to prevent us from doing this., They HATE the word "drilling". Thats the only word they have to hear. If it involves "drilling", they are against it and will do anything and everything in their power to stop it, keeping us reliant on the Saudis, among other nations that sell us their oil.

Chris Knight said...

We are foolish not to drill the Alaska National Wildlife Refuse *now*. The argument given is that it'll "destroy the natural environment". The actual land that would be used for oil extraction would be comparable to, say, an area the size of a postage stamp on a football field: it's THAT insignificant. This new procedure may have an even less impact on the environment. I hope this gets pursued: it would still be a stop-gap measure until we're completely weaned off of gasoline (in a perfect world we'd be using biodiesel now) but it would definitely mean our finally being energy-independent... if not THE major energy producer on the planet.

Chris Knight said...

"Refuse" was supposed to be "Refuge". My bad :-)