Shhh is for oil shale

There seems to be a general consensus among many of those that write about world energy, that the 2 trillion barrels of oil potentially available out of the 4 trillion barrels locked in the United States oil shales are not a realistic source of supply. However, after an eleven year hiatus, Colorado School of Mines are reactivating their annual Oil Shale Symposia. And the resource is not quite the nonentity that it may appear. (A quick search through the indices of a number of the PO books did not find it listed in any). Given that, for example, "Japan started oil production at Fushun in 1929, and developed, in less than ten years, the world's largest oil shale industry. Shale oil was a principal source of fuels for Japan during World War II. Fushun production continues to expand under Communist China and may be 40,000 bpd presently." (Ref. 1) it is perhaps justifiable to take a little closer look at this whole issue and try to explain some of the technical state of affairs, point out a little of the disingenuousness of some of the statements that have been made, but largely leave the political discussion to others.

Unfortunately the last time that a serious look was taken at this resource was back in the 1970's and 1980's, when at one time, under the Project Independence Blueprint, a shale oil production target of 1 million barrels of oil per day was projected, in line with President Ford's State-of-the-Union Message of 1975. (Ref 2). That program, in turn, was based on the considerable amount of research that had been carried out, both in the US, and abroad, and on an initial evaluation of practical means to meet the target. But before one looks at that target, and its feasibility, perhaps it is better to look a little more closely at the information which led up to the prediction.

To begin with, while the basic definition of an oil shale suggests the fine-grained rock that is often called shale, and implies it is impregnated with oil, that might be easily recovered, Unfortunately, in most cases the rock is not a shale, and the organic material that it contains is not yet an oil that will not run out, or separate out with normal treatment. It has been described as a precursor to oil, in that, it was initially formed in the same way, but has not undergone the natural high-temperature and pressure regimes of deep burial in the earth that are needed to turn it into oil. (However, if additional kerogen were to be added to the shale it would through time more likely end up as a coal - Ref 3.). The material is known as a kerogen, and to date the most successful methods of removing it from the rock has been to heat the rock until the contents volatize, and then to condense the hydrocarbons back out (in the same fashion that one cracks the oil in a refinery - though there are some significant differences that I will get to later). However, since the initial natural process was not carried as far as with oil, then the amount of energy that is required is generally greater. The greatest deposits of interest are those found in relatively thick deposits around the point where Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho come together.

This and the following section is taken from Ref. 4. A section through the lettered points in the above figure gives:

Note that the scale for the vertical section is in feet. The darker band shown is known as the Mahogany zone in which the Mahogany bed some 100 - 200 ft thick, is considered to be the richest layer, and is a marker for the deposit.

Shale oil has been used as a fuel source in a number of countries around the world, over the past 150 years, but only become of economic significance in the 1920's. (Ref 3). There have been over two thousand patents issued describing different ways to separate what, for convenience, I will call oil, from the shale (similarly called). (Ref 5). Only a few have, however, been demonstrated, and later in this series of posts I will explain some of the peculiar problems that arise in retorting oil shale. But, as an illustration of the type of process that could be used, I will describe the Gas Combustion Process, as developed by the US Bureau of Mines for one of its original experiments. I thought it would be useful to describe this in a little detail, since it points out some of the potential benefits that can come from retorting the material.

The retort can be simply thought of as a vertical pipe with the raw shale fed into the top. As it moves down through the retort it passes through four zones. At the top of the retort the shale is cold, and the gasses rising from the lower parts of the process, mix with this shale. This has two effects, it pre-heats the shale as it drops into the next zone, while at the same time the oil is condensed into a mist, and the product gasses are cooled. (They are both then collected as they leave the retort). As the shale continues to move down the retort it reaches, about half-way down, a series of ports that inject air mixed with a portion of the produced gas that has been collected (call this the dilution gas). These two combine to cause ignition and to raise the temperature of the shale (to between 700 and 950 degrees F) so that the hydrocarbon contents vaporize and create the oil and gas combination that rises up out of the retort. The shale residue, continues down the retort, where it is now used to pre-heat a second supply of the collected gas (known as the recycled gas) that is moving up into the retorting zone. This cools the shale as it heats the gas, and the shale residue can then be collected and moved away. By using this form of heat transfer during the process a relatively high thermal efficiency can be achieved, and the retort can produce about 90% of the original oil in the shale, as well as a secondary volume of gas, beyond that needed to energize the retort. The retort has been shown able to handle shale particles ranging in size from ¼" to 3". By design it is possible to make sure that the oil mist that is the major product does not condense onto the shale particles that are being fed into the retort. You may note that this separation process does not require any additional external fuel, nor the addition of water to the process.

Using a slightly different method Union Oil Company ran a demonstration plant that ran at rates up to 1200 tons/day, using oil shale from the Piceance Basin. The crude produced was "a waxy, intermediate gravity, high nitrogen and intermediate sulfur crude" where the wax was removed and separately cracked, and the sulfur and nitrogen levels lowered before it could be considered a "commercial shale oil" with properties similar to that of a high quality Utah crude (Ref. 6). A feed of crude shale oil at 26,900 b/d would yield 25,000 bd of commercial shale oil, and 500 t of green coke. The oil could then be cracked into 380 bd of lpg; 13,635 bd of gasoline; 1,300 bd of stove oil; 6,700 bd of diesel and 590 bd of fuel oil (ibid).

As I said at the beginning of the post, there is an awful lot of oil shale in the United States, the beds can reach up to 2,000 ft thick, and the oil content can reach 90 gallons/ton. Unfortunately these do not occur at the same time. Rather the highest grade, is found in relatively narrow layers in the Uinta Basin, although the oil-shale sequence in the area can be up to 1,200 ft. (Ref. 4). And unfortunately not all the oil in the shale is made up of the same material, or has the same sort of properties. This can lead both to difficulties in mining and in retorting.

I will discuss those, and the issue of in-situ retorting, and some of its problems in the next post. But, given what happened, it is perhaps appropriate to close this first post with a comment by Harold Carver of Union.

It should be quite obvious that if imports to the coastal states and from Canada suddenly increase disproportionately after a shale industry is started, the embryo shale industry would be placed in a severe competitive bind. Unlimited cheap foreign crude imports would make shale oil as well as a large percentage of domestic crude oil production non-competitive. What is needed is assurance that shale oil production will face a stable economic environment in which it can share in the spectrum of raw materials for our future energy needs.

Given what happened that was quite visionary.

References - since most of these papers were written before the advent of the Internet, I am going to have to give some of the references in "the old style"
Ref. 1 Cameron "Foreign oil shale industries and their influence on United States Oil Shale Development," First Symposium on Oil Shale, CSM, 1964
Ref. 2 Utter S., Oil Shale R & D - A Bureau of Mines Program, 2nd Annual UMR-MEC Conference on Energy, October 1975
Ref. 3 Oil Shale entry, Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 1978, paper edition.
Ref 4. Donnell J.R. Geology and Oil-Shale Resources of the Green River Formation, First Symposium on Oil Shale, CSM, 1964
Ref. 5 Guthrie B., Oil from Rock - The Gas-Combustion Process, First Symposium on Oil Shale, CSM, 1964
Ref. 6 Carver H. Conversion of Oil Shale to Refined Products, First Symposium on Oil Shale, CSM, 1964

  I wonder why there never seems to be a comparison with converting lignite to liquids. It strikes me that since brown coal is a richer source of kerogen it would be more economic than shale for liquids production
  Also depleted shale source rocks may make a better prospect. A lot of the wells in the Barnett Shale are making 10 to 20 barrels a day plus gas that levels out from 500 to 2,000 mcfpd. I know the costs are high-about $5 million to drill and complete-but they seem to pay out in 3 or 4 years and have a long-lived level production. This beats coal or shale for liquids production. Compare that to your 10,000 bbl/day flowing wells you silly Saudis!
   It sure isn't the cheap oil and gas we all grew up with. I think the next trillion barrels is going to cost a whole lot more than the first trillion.
This is exactly what I have asked repeatedly.  Why shale and not coal?  The only answer I've been able to reach (on my own) is that Big Oil and Big Coal are separate worlds. Oil people just don't do coal.

I'm also curious about how the shale manages to find itself conveniently broken into 3-inch pieces in the top of the retort - when it was last heard of as a solid stratum 2000 feet underground - and also what exactly comes out the bottom of the retort, and where this subsequently is put?        

And to add a little to the shale debate, it can be used as-is (though busted up first) in powerplants like Estonia does. The coal can thus be saved for making liquid fuels for where it's really needed. While ground transportation can be electrified (trolley buses, electric rail, etc.) but liquid fuel is needed for things like the airplanes - which we'll use a lot less of except for warbirds. Shipping at sea can use shale in otherwise coal driven freighters. Until the freighters are converted, enough liquid fuel can come from coal. The vast majority of liquid fuel goes into the zillions of cars.
I think it is more vice versa - coal people do not do oil.

It will be uncomparatively easier for a coal company to go down that road as the coal mining technology is well developed and they just need to build the liquification factories. The only way for an oil company to develop coal would be to buy some existing coal mines and pay the cost of convergation, which will make the total bill prohibitively high.

Mine the residual oil?  Is that possible, or just wildly expensive?
  There have been a few oil mines. Oil is mostly at depths below 2000 ft, although there are a number of shallower prospects. The oil at shallow depths is generally low gravity (extra thick) and not as valuable.Tar sands are oil sands where all the light components have evaporated or were never formed.
  A horizontal hole is in essence a type of oil mine. After the main pressure in the formation is depleted, a lot of oil will still seep into the borehole from gravity and can be pumped out. The horizontal wells can be drilled up to a mile in length through oil productive rocks which increases the well's exposure to the formation by a huge amount.
  So the answer is that oil mining is already being done. Good idea, though.  
Actually, this is wrong. There is a tendency toward sharing hardship: when a corporation suffers hardship, it not only shares the hardship, it tries to donate it entirely to its employees in cut wages, lost pensions, etc.

Silly me.

Somewhere I read that the total daily coal production could be converted to 10 million barrels of oil. Lost the link though. I would be very grateful if someone could find it. I do not know if that number is based on the actual conversion or just caloric comparisson. I could imagine that actual conversion would not be 100% effective though.
Ho, you've described an entirely different method here for processing the "oil shales". My simple question is this: Considering that Shell does not know yet whether their in situ method will scale up and be economical on large scales, why are they spending so much time, effort and money to develop this "new" method?
Patience, and I will get there - to explain why we are "where we are" with oil shale I thought it best to start at the beginning and gradually explain why the process has evolved to the point where it is today.  And it is way too long for a single post so there will probably be a short series of these as I go through some of the issues.
At a guess, for the same reason in-situ coal gasification is being examined.  Using a hole in the ground vs reactors saves a lot of investment.
  Ther are several reasons for attempting to develop oil shale. First, there are research and development tax credits so the research is not costing them much. Second, the major oil companies are absolutely terrified of a punative "windfall profits" tax, and they see this as great public relations for developing alternative energy sources. Third, In Situ minining leaves the waste in place so there is comparitively little remediation and environmental flack. And Fourth-it just might work and be a very economic way to produce energy.
There are a hundred questions one could ask about this Shale Oil Scheme. What would be the ERoEI? How much water would it take? Where would they get the water since every gallon of water in this area is already being fought over tooth and nail? What would they do with the tailings since the processed shale takes up more space than the original.

But there is one overwhelming question that must be answered: What would or could be the quanity of oil produced. Would it be one million barrels per day by 2015? Or perhaps it might take until 2020 to get up to that amount. Or would it be possible to produce two million barrels per day by 2020.

In short, how much difference is this going to make? Peak oil is now. The crisis is upon us. Middle East oil production is on the cusp of collapse. When this news sinks in markets will crash, nations will start to husband their own oil, meaning even less oil on world markets, leaders will panic and heaven only knows what else.

Hope there is some oil to be had out in the Green River area however. It could soften the later stages of the crash a little bit. Not much but every little bit helps.

If you don't mind I am planning on writing about almost all of these issues as I go through how the industry has changed.  But in terms of the question - if someone came up and said "I don't care how much it costs, I want that oil", providing they provided the money and resources, then they could get it.

It is the costs, among other things, that I will try and put in context with the technology as I try and give the background to this.  (And to just give an example of what I meant by money and resources -  with infinite wealth they could put pumps at the sea shore in California, desalinate the water and pump it to Colorado to provide all the water needed - whether that would be something you would want to do is, of course, another question - grin).

Exactly, and that's why I favor the silver BB theory of Roger. The immediate thing to do is try to become carbon nuetral and energy efficent. Buy local. Learn a real skill that produces a real good or service, in other words West Texas's ELP program. Its going to take all of us pulling together to make any real progress, and other people will follow a good example.

Actually I'm not sure it matters. I think cheap oil is more important then peak oil. I mean once oil is 200 dollars a barrel electric based transport makes tons of sense.  Cheap Oil offers the convenience of personal or directed transport expensive oil makes it not worth the price.

Think of it like air conditioning we love it but we can live without it. The moment oil becomes expensive then it does not matter anymore we will switch to electric transport.
I think the speed of the switch will surprise many. My bet is on electric trolleys.

Also considering the enormous cost of our interstate system the moment its not usable by the majority is the moment we let it fall apart. People are not going to pay taxes so the rich can drive cars. Local roads are next unless reasonable personal electric transport is available.

I really think in Europe for example the only reason they still have things like the autobahn is because people still believe they might buy a car the moment this dream is gone is the moment the autobahn becomes a memory.

If you think about it Automobiles really took off in about 20 years 1945-1965. I see just as fast a fall.

Now the big loss for america is not oil based transportation we can actually switch fairly rapidly but the fact we built our cities around cheap oil thats the real pain.

Middle America is going to lose a enourmous amount in property values as cities renew there inner cores and contract around electric train routes. This implosion and redistribution of real estate wealth is one of the real problems.

The next is the loss of the American Dream for the majority of Americans as transportation costs and devaluation of there homes basically bankrupts them.

Finally god knows what going to happen to the poor as middle class America streams back into the cities pushing the poor out into slums far from the city center and fast transport.

Its the social consequences of the loss of cheap oil never mind peak oil that are staggering for America.

"The moment oil becomes expensive then it does not matter anymore we will switch to electric transport. I think the speed of the switch will surprise many."

I'll be surprised, given that better than 2/3 of our current production relies on fossil fuels (coal/gas/oil in that order of percent contribution).  Remember, you don't get coal without petroleum machines to dig it out.

And you don't get nuclear plants without oil for the mining of uranium, production of cement and steel, etc, etc....

So where is all this electricity to replace oil going to come from?

Unfortunately I believe it will be coal and lots of it.
Cement Steel etc are still primarily coal based industries.
The steel of course can come from recycling so its not a matter of smelting the raw ore.

Also there is still plenty of oil for operation of value add machinery i.e where it used to do useful work say put in a trolley line. I suspect what will happen is oil or in this case diesel will be rationed and subsidized by the government for these types of uses. There will still be a lot of oil around and its simple to reallocate it to concentrate on supporting redevelopment. It just won't be cheap.

This does mean the US government will probably take over a lot of the remaining oil supply for military and emergency industrial use further impacting the oil available for the poor SUV owner. Remember we are still a large oil producer and I'm sure at this point the average tax payer would not have a problem with the US nationalizing its remaining oil production.

In the end we have no choice. If we got off our butts today and started putting electric trolleys and rail back into our cities and subsidize inner city development and taxed the hell out of gasoline for private usage it will make life much easier in the long run. I acutally suspect this will happen once Bush and co leave. But it may be to late.
It seems to me that every year we don't act the pain increases ten fold.

Coal will be king!

I just read an article in my dentist's office (sorry - no link) which stated:

New coal plants coming on line in the coming 24 years, will, in their 60 year lifetime, release more CO2 than ALL coal burned in the last 250 years...

Unfortunately, I continue to believe as strongly as ever, that faced with change (to our non-negotiable way-of-life) vs. 'discretely' ramping up coal usage, coal will be king...

Remember, you don't get coal without petroleum machines to dig it out.

Errr, there are plenty of electric mining tools.

You are right - where will the power come from

Middle America is going to lose a enourmous amount in property values as cities renew there inner cores and contract around electric train routes. This implosion and redistribution of real estate wealth is one of the real problems.

The next is the loss of the American Dream for the majority of Americans as transportation costs and devaluation of there homes basically bankrupts them.

The US wrote off much (most ?) of their existing housing stock after WW II.  Our economy survived this writeoff (despite many individual losses).

Can you expand on this I'm aware of the boom from new housing being built but was not aware that the older homes were written off so I'm not clear on what your referring to.
A series of deliberate policies to encourage economic activity with new conctruction at the expense of establsihed housing.

One example is VA loans (most of the market in early post-war years).  Zero problem getting a loan for a new home (0 down from memory). but no financing for existing homes with any defects at all. And delays for multiple inspections before closing on an older home. (I heard electricity wiring and plumbing had to be up to current code).  Result, few owner occupied buyers of "old" homes; land lords bought them for rental instead.  First step to slums & boarded up houses.

I saw a mid-1950s promo film for post-WW II sprawl Metairie on PBS.  One claim was that you could easily get a VA loan for a "new problem free home" in Metairie but not for an older home in New Orleans.  Probably the de facto truth.

Many other policies to devalue the existing urban hosuing stock (new highways deface & divide established neighborhoods in order to speed new suburbanites to work).  Don't you want to live next to an interstate in what was a nice urban park ?

"Urban Renewal" hurt more than it helped.

Alan, given the nature of your posts, I'm sure you've read Kenneth Jackson's Crabgrass Frontier.  For those that haven't, he outlines the bias against the city and in favor of suburbanization with the federal loan program.  The central thesis of the book is that the nature of development is dependent on the predominant mode of transportation. For example, the streetcar era gave us one type of neighborhood, and the automobile gave us a different (and inferior one) It's an excellent book for anyone intersted in peak oil, the disaster of suburbia, city planning and the history of transportation.
Actually I have not read it.  I was just aware of some of the specifics and these were part of a larger politically driven enonomic drive to build sunurbia and "abandon" older cities.

Urban parks were once special targets of highway planners (FREE Land !) with untold damage to surrounding neighborhoods when a nice park is replaced by a freeway :-((

Alan, although it would be a little bit of a "preaching to the choir" situation for you, I think you'd reall enjoy it. The author loves train/ streetcar oriented transit and the development patterns engendered by them.  The book is nearly 20 years old now, so it is a little dated, but I'm sure you could get it cheaply over the internet or order it through your library.
Library ?

Most were destroyed.  Collections flooded or roof damage let rain water in.

Order ?

First class mail only.  Delivery 2 or 3 times/week.

Ouch.  If I owned a copy, I'd gladly give it away and mail it to you.
I agree. There are many ways to produce oil, but none of them will be affordable at the volumes we currently burn. Our first response will be to downsize our vehicles. We will we surprised to find the smaller vehicles will cost the same as our current large ones. Riding the declining resource curve is not an economic joyride. Eventually only millionaires will be driving around in cars running on shale oil. Joe Sixpack will be riding his electric bicycle to work on the vegetable farm.
"We will be surprised to find the smaller vehicles will cost the same as our current large ones."

Have you priced a Honda Fit?

They're about half the price of your average SUV, and get nearly three times the mileage.

I do however agree, the 'new' oils are not cheap and don't have great scale, so oil prices will go up over time, and it seems likely we will have to live with less.

A friend and I recently priced a Honda Fit in San Francisco.  The dealership was asking the $15,000 base price plus a $4000 "dealer's charge" for a white, stick-shift Fit with zero options.  Came to $19,000 before tags, tax and license.  Add another $2000 for those.  A Fit in a designer color with automatic and options easily pencilled out at $23,000 before tags, tax and license.  Not exactly the $17,000 Dan Neil was quoting in his LA Times review for the fully decked out unit he was driving.

You may argue that the base price is what counts but I'd counter by saying that when fuel efficient vehicles become de rigeur the premium over base is liable to stay rather high.  Then too, it's the full price that gets paid.

Furthermore, the cost of raw materials will probably rise as well so the base manufacturing cost will increase.

Electric cars must use quite a bit more copper than a conventional car and the red metal has already doubled in a short time.

Actually, we're being told that copper prices are up 400% over the last 24 months.  I assume that's more than 4 times prices 2 years ago.

Steel and iron are up 40%.

Fabricated metals are up 50%.

Air Freight up 8%.

"People are not going to pay taxes so the rich can drive cars." People already pay a lot taxes for the benefit of the rich, the military being the primary example, but there are many others, corporate subsidies, etc. Now there are roads that will be allowed to deteriorate and ones that won't. The highway system is important to the miitary, and the parts that are of convenience to the rich will be maintained, at least some.

There is absolutely no tendency toward sharing hardships any more than there is to sharing bonanzas.

As to Mr. Carver's statement, I remember hearing Henry Kissinger say restate the same concern in the mid-70s.  He was concerned that a big investment in the Syncrude project could be undercut by the Saudis anytime they pleased.

In the event, the decision to NOT invest the billions in oil shale was the correct one.

But times change and we're at or near the point when big, bankrupting price swings in crude prices are very unlikely.

where is the gas going to come from
to produce the volume of electricty
needed. If you use coal what happens
to the worlds climate.
 We still need the gas to make fertilize
or how will we produce enough food
As far as I can gather, the energy industry has been saying that oil shale can be produced at prices between $30 to $40 since around 2003.  The fact that the cost of energy and other necessary commodities (i.e. steel) has skyrocketed, has not changed their forecast.  Why hasn't the estimate gone up at least a little?

I'll bet they figured in a static cost of energy and water based on 2002 prices, and used those numbers to come up with the $30 to $40 figure.  My hunch is that when oil was $30, gas $3 and coal $25, oil shale costs would be about $40 to produce.  Now that steel prices are higher and oil costs $70, gas $6 to 8 and coal $50-60, the cost to produce oil shale will rise in lock-step to $75 or $80, and still remain out of reach economically.

Secondly, I wonder if they have included in their estimates the effect their own efforts will have on local energy and water prices.   Even ignoring a peak in oil production, they cannot build up to 1 million barrels a day without causing a dramatic rise in the price of coal and/ or natural gas and water locally.  If they could produce enough of their own energy to pull this off either from coal or natural gas or by some other magical means, they might be better off directly selling the coal or natural gas or burning it and selling the electricity.

Something I was trying to get to with my off topic posts.

Basically there is no demand for expensive oil or at least expensive oil for personal transportation. With that removed we have enough to switch I'm not saying its easy but enough.

At most we will see some CTL. Basically we will switch away from cars long before Shale Oil would ever become feasible.

With that said using it for electric production in crushed form is a real possibility and worth exploring vs coal. I suspect its not viable but it might if co production of diesel to run the machines that do the mining is taken into account. But using a small CTL is also viable on site to power the mining machinery. So if ones viable then the other probably is also. So a small refinery producing enough fuel to power the machines for extraction to use in electric power plants may make sense.  Even better is probably electric equipment with a small local plant.

I believe we will have the high density capacitors available from carbon nanotubes since making them viable by simple physics so electric heavy equipment is possible. Heck it might even work with batteries or some sort of lines on booms or a combination also solid oxide fuel cells which area mature technology make a lot of sense. I suspect though that heavy equipment is one of the few places that diesel makes sense.
Once you subtract blowing fossil fuels driving SUV's
were not in horrid shape the only problem is we will probably produce even more C02 burning coal or via CTL to replace the current oil based sources.

To finish this ramble and bring it back to oil shale if you
do two things couple the extraction with nearby electric plants to burn the crushed rock and can run all your equipment off of electric or co produced diesel then I think you make be able to produce some surplus diesel for market.

I suspect CTL has about the same economics i.e. only makes sense in conjunction with electric production and also if its coupled with direct production of diesel needed for extraction and then as only a small percent of the overall production since it needs to compete with biodiesel.

The feasibilty of oil shale in this type of economy is what needs to be discerned it will never be used to power some rednecks 4WD.

Secondly, I wonder if they have included in their estimates the effect their own efforts will have on local energy and water prices. Even ignoring a peak in oil production, they cannot build up to 1 million barrels a day without causing a dramatic rise in the price of coal and/ or natural gas and water locally.

Shell's new in situ process uses electricity. If we could get Shell to fund a few thousand wind turbines, I'd be more than happy. When they figure out that the oil shale isn't competitive, we'd have a lovely new source of renewable electricity for Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

great idea!
Thanks for the nice research piece, HO.

I can remember seeing a some discussion of this topic in the '70s. One of the more interesting problems mentioned was that the carbonate rock matrix expands as the oil shale is heated, so the waste pile is larger than the original material.

The wikipedia article also mentions this.

THe wikipedia article confidently asserts that oil shale will be produced if oil prices stay above $40.
THe wikipedia article confidently asserts that oil shale will be produced if oil prices stay above $40.

Any of those low EROEI processes are going to see their costs rising with the price of oil. When oil passed $40, they suddenly found themselves paying a lot more for their energy inputs.


long story short, don't trust wiki-pedia for anything.
I believe it's true about the carbonate rock expanding when heated, but am well aware of where wiki gets its stuff.

What amazes me is how civil they've managed to keep it. It's a public wall available to all graffiti artists, but hasn't sunk to the level of usenet.

Ha! It is funny to me that "Don't trust the wiki" is even a necessary warning! It can be a STARTING point for information at best, like any encyclopedia. -Tom

Ever hear of "Project Bronco" from the 1960s? It was a proposal to drop a nuke in the oil shale and liquify it. I linked it up on LATOC when I first came across it, I think on

Wasnt' there also a plan to divert the Mississippi River or something along those lines to get the fresh water necessary to mine the stuff?

Another plan I vaguely remember reading about involved turning Colorado into a "national sacrifice area" for energy independence.



You got it - since there has been some question about using nukes - I thought that I'd have a post on that as part of the series.
I noticed that no one costed out the environmental ravages that oil shale will surely produce. No one mentioned the vast amounts of carbon spewed into an already out of balance natural system.

My guess is that most people will be suffering from famine, drought, desertification, unemployment, old diseases in new more northern areas, resource wars, urban strife, suburban collapse, fascistic republican government, and so on to be worried the probability that shale oil will save their automobile lifestyle from the scrapheap.

I guess oil shale will save us from all these other related things, because cheap oil got us out on this limb, only more cheap oil will save us, right?

More shale oil will fix that whole population thing, right? Cause we all know that people automatically stop procreating when the price of gas goes down, right?

I mean, once we get that stream of shale oil flowing, we won't ever have to increase production levels, right? Cause once we got that going, particularly because it is shale oil after all, people will automatically slow down on their consumption, right?

Why can't anyone think about the whole enchilada, instead of just the sauce?

It's like a bunch of ancients sitting around discussing what type turtle the flat earth is supported by. Is it a sea turtle? Maybe a box turtle?

Instead of looking a little closer at the probability that their basic world view is flawed, they stay within the old paradigm because that is what they know.

Oh, sad monkeys!

Why can't anyone think about the whole enchilada, instead of just the sauce?

they either don't have the ability to think past the short term. or they have been taught by our current society that thinking long term is not good, you know imitate gratification.
this is the same problem with the other alternatives too. people just can't seem to look past the part which makes the electricity/power/fuel

The sad reality is we will probably do extensive enviromental damage of the next years even as we power down. Basically we will burn all our coal oil shale and remaining oil.,0,4203769.story?coll=hc-headlines-nat ionworld

This is just the begining.

Oh, sad monkeys!


Me donky ass ho!

One thing that puzzles me about these discussions on kerogen-based sources such as tar sands and oils shales and conversion to liquid fuel is where the hydrogen comes from.  I'm guessing it comes mostly from natural gas.  Is this limiting at all?  Given the NG forecasts it sounds like it would be, but maybe I'm missing something here.

There just hydrocarbons the size of hydrocarbons effects the physical properties not really its chemical properties.

Refining is a complex process.

If hydrogen is not added you end up with extra coke or carbon thats been stripped of its hydrogen. Note if you break the chains and produce cyclic product you get no net hydrogen addition. Aromatic ( benzene ) production actually produces hydrogen there is also branching. Some of the refining approaches add hydrogen generally I think from natural gas.

Geez I forgot double bond formation or Alkenes which add hydrogen to the reaction prob the biggest reaction.

Basically as you break the long chains you end up with a witches brew of short chained hydrocarbons that are unsaturated ( depending on the amount of coking or hydrogen addition )

I thought the C:H ratio for most forms of kerogen is ~1 to > 1, whereas for liquid fuels it's ~0.5.  Are you saying the C:H ratio in oil shales is around 0.5?
You are correct that the atomic C:H ratio of liquid fuels is around 0.5. The C:H ratios of kerogen and shale oil are 0.65 and 0.62, respectively.  For comparison, Athabasca bitumen is 0.67, lignite is 1.1 and subbitumonous coal is 1.7.

Ref. Synthetic Fuels Handbook, Cameron Engineers, Inc., 1975

The relatively low C:H of kerogen compared to coal is one reason why oil shale is preferred to coal as a liquid fuel source.