Oil Shale - the Nuclear Option

Well, as Gazprom consolidates its grip on Russian gas it could be that we may need access to all that oil locked up in the oil shale somewhat sooner than the four years that Shell have said it needs before it can even decide if their process is viable (and I'll cover that in a later post). Now before I get into the piece that follows I should explain that I don't hold any particular animus towards the states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming or Idaho and so when I start talking about disposing of nuclear weapons in those states by making use of them it should be taken as merely a technical discussion (grin).

The need for a relatively rapidly available resource to allow us to continue being able to supply the worlds needs for oil, even as it increases into the future, will require some fairly rapid and agile production of resources, and as I noted in the first post of this series, with some 2 trillion extractable barrels of oil locked up in the oil shales of the above four states, there lies a potential answer to the problem. But conventional means for extraction, particularly the levels of capital required, and other issues that I will discuss later, make it unlikely that these normal means will produce any significant impact on the gap in economic supply that will develop in the near future. The use of nuclear explosives has the potential to solve that problem. And to explain, rather simply how this might be done (as with the other techie talks), I will explain how, conceptually, this might be achieved.

The papers that I am going to take the concepts from were given at the second and third oil shale symposia and are listed at the end of the post. They describe the application of results from over 150 underground nuclear detonations which were carried out as the United States sought to find peaceful uses for nuclear explosives as part of the Plowshare Program. I will also be using 1960's costs since these were used in the papers.

To set the stage, as I have described earlier, the Western oil shales occur in rock with almost no permeability, and the kerogen that is in the rock will, under normal conditions stay there, rather than flowing even when it has the chance. So if the oil (kerogen) is to be recovered two things will be needed. The first is a way of massively fracturing the rock, and the second is the maintenance of some level of heating to liquefy the oil, and then to keep it flowing. Large scale fracture of the rock will, in turn, require the application of massive levels of energy, and here nuclear explosives are in a class of their own. Explosive yields are usually given in kilotons, where a kiloton has the effective energy in a thousand tons of TNT. (A ton of TNT has an energy content of 4,184 Megajoules). At the same time the devices themselves are relatively small. A 250 KT device would be around 20 inches in diameter and about two to four times that long. The cost to place it, and the device itself, was estimated to be around $500,000 in 1965.

The oil shale layers are about 2,000 ft thick, and under an additional cover of 1,000 ft of overlying rock (overburden to mining engineers). If a 250 KT device was placed at the bottom of the shale layer, therefore, and detonated, it could be expected to create a cavity that would be around 400 ft in diameter. Much of the radioactive material generated (anticipated to be tritium) would be fused into the wall of the cavity, or caught in the gas that could be drawn off and collected through the boreholes subsequently used to take advantage of the blast.

The shockwave from the event is anticipated to create damaging surface motion to a distance of 2 miles or so, and be substantially disturbing to 6 miles, however, for our purpose, in the immediate vicinity of the blast it will induce significant fractures in the surrounding, and overlying rock. This will cause the rock immediately over the blasted cavity to collapse, and to fall in until a chimney of broken rock has been formed. This chimney will grow upwards until the bulking of the rock as it breaks (that gain of 60% I mentioned last post) fills the space available. For the 250 KT shot this chimney is estimated to be around 1,000 ft high. Experience suggests that the blocks will break into pieces up to 3-ft in size, though the collapse and internal fracturing may increase their ignition potential. The rock surrounding the cavity will, for a distance of around 3-cavity diameters be fractured with a permeability of up to 1 darcy. (The Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia has an average permeability of 617 millidarcies). Beyond that range, and out to about 6 to 8 radii the rock will continue to be fractured, but with fractures more widely spaced and less useful.

Thus, if the entire area is to be treated, then shots would need to be fired around 3 - 4 cavity radii apart in order to maximize the break-up of the rock. (Say for our hypothetical model this would be around 750 ft). By drilling sets of 5 shot holes to create individual retorts, and grouping these in sets of four, to create a "plant," we could create a production operation for the recovery of the oil. Depending on whether the intent is to optimize the fragmentation of the rock, or the fracturing of the surrounding rock with the patterns, some 240,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 cubic feet of rock will be broken per shot, at a cost of $0.015 to $0.05 per ton.

Which brings up the second advantage of nuclear explosives. About 2.5 months after the shot the temperature at the wall of the cavity will still be around 1,000 degrees F, and some 11 months after the shot it will be around 180 degrees. Since the only place for this heat to go is into the surrounding rock, it will cook the kerogen in the vicinity into oil, with, at the sustaining temperature, a low enough viscosity that it will flow into any adjacent collection point.

And it is here that the advances of the past 40-years come into play, since oil drilling is now capable of drilling a "bottle brush" collection pattern under the cavity in order to access and collect the oil (and some water) as it drains down through the fractures. However drilling will also be required to feed air into the chimney and to turn it into a large-scale retort to complete the transition of the kerogen in the vicinity to oil, and to mobilize it. Based on USBM experiments, some 75-90% of the oil in the shale can be recovered from such an in-situ retort. Where necessary some of the gas produced may also be used, in the later stages of the upward progression of the fire front, to enhance the strength of the fire front and to ensure that it continues to move up through the shale, not only in the chimney, but then also into the overlying and surrounding rock. (The fire can be controlled to either burn up or down what now becomes an extremely large retort).

Using this technique and applying it to each of the plants, that I have just described, it is anticipated that each plant, which would cover an area about a mile in diameter, would produce some 450 million barrels of oil over twelve years, at a production rate per day of 100,000 barrels, assuming a 75% recovery of the oil over the 2,000 ft interval. It is anticipated that with a feed of around 3,000 cfm/ton of air at 50 psi, that the flame front could progress at a speed of between 1 and 2 ft per day. In 1965 dollars, it was anticipated that the operation could make a profit if the oil were then sold to a refinery at a cost of $1.50 a barrel. Oil recovery would, however, be controlled by the quantity of oil in each "retort" layer, and, by the nature of the operation, all the oil would be anticipated to be recovered but at the rate controlled by the layers as they produced. However the process is considered economic for oil shale at grades above 15 gallons/ton with thicknesses of greater than 400 ft.

So just think, when we talk about "the nuclear option" in future, we may have an entirely different concept in mind (/grin).

(Note that, for consistency I changed some of the numbers to reflect use in the 2,000 ft shale column, rather than the 1,000 ft used in some of the example calculations in the papers).

Reference papers for this post are:
M.A. Lekas and H.C. Carpenter "Fracturing Oil Shale with Nuclear Explosives for In-Situ Retorting", 2nd Symposium on Oil Shale, CSM, 1965.
H.F. Coffer and E.R. Spiess "Commercial Applications of Nuclear Explosives, the Answer to Oil Shale?", 3rd Symposium on Oil Shale, CSM, 1966.
M.E. Lekas "Economics of Producing Shale Oil, the Nuclear In-Situ Retorting Method,"
3rd Symposium on Oil Shale, CSM, 1966.

Previous posts in this short series on Oil shale dealt with

Where it is
Mining oil shale

Given these numbers, does anyone doubt that this will eventually be done?
The pure insanity of using nuclear weapons to blow holes in the Earth in order to produce oil nicely captures everything that is wrong with our current culture. I can see this being done before meaningful efforts at curbing demand begin i.e. -- 'Nuke that grass, I want gas!'
I could not have said it better myself.

I think we're going to see every crazy friggin' scheme possible tried, anything, anything at all, for oil.

The AEC proposed another version of this nuttery way back in the early 1970s, (IIRC), to boost the rock flow of conventional oil reserves.

On the Western Slope, many of these people are "downwinders" from Nevada N-Tests; even given the gung-ho attitude of Westerners toward many things, they are NOT going to embrace something like this.

Exactly. Too many cowbows' kids have had their thyroid glands removed to make them want to go with this option.

Also, who would want to buy radioactive gasoline?

the same people who think you can handle pure uranium and plutomium with your bare hands?
Hello MicroHydro,

Somehow, I think the insurance underwriters would refuse to offer coverage-- the risks of something going wrong are probably too high.  Using the govt as the insurer of last resort would be like asking New Orleans residents to fully and faithfully trust the govt again.  The only way to get this done is when the military is so desperate for fuel that they will shoot anyone that stands between them and the oil, and if a nuclear accident or something worse happens-- it will just be considered as collateral damage.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

These guys aren't going to wreck my organic garden and farm, are they?
Hello Don in Colorado,

If they do-- it will be unintentional--but of course that won't make you feel any better.  I am no geologist, but setting off all those nukes might possibly wreck the surrounding water tables or aquifers with earthquakes and ground settling.  Maybe jumpstart a volcano too?  Having plenty of local oil, but suddenly having no nearby water seems like a bad tradeoff to me.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

I kind of like the volcano idea, Bob.

I built my house out of concrete-reinforced rastra block. I think it could survive the concussion of nuclear blasts on the other side of the Grand Mesa, but I still need uncontaminated water, and too much dust from nuclear fallout might really make my passive solar windows inoperative.

Maybe we should all move to Tahiti ...


Since you apparently live in Colorado, you should know that the Colorado constitution requires a vote of the people for undergound nuclear blasting.  I helped put it on the ballot in 1975.  

Hi tstreet,

I was a kid reporter at the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel during the last oil shale boom. At least that one was only a figurative "boom."

I'm hoping for a global recession that will make oil shale once again the energy source of the future ...

It's fair to assume that The Empire isn't going to allow itself to collapse for want of a few billion barrels of oil.  Many seem to think that the end of cheap oil will pave (irony intended) the way for establishing some sort of low-tech, sustainable utopia.  But such will not be the case, and HO's post reminds us why.

The problem is that power structures exist because they lift the most aggressive individuals (and families) to the top of the heap, where upon they live a very priviledged existence.  Nothing new here, just that exploitation of fossil energy has taken the pyramid to new heights.  If maintaining the pyramid means trashing the planet one acre at a time, that is really no problem for those on top of the heap.  It's only a problem for those on the bottom whose land, drinking water, air and quality-of-life will ultimately be sacrificed for "the greater good."

So, as TPTB ponder the energy precipice, I expect to hear a lot more proposals like this one -- high-tech, so that implementation is only possible by those with the "right" money and political connections, and with a huge potential for payoff, even if it makes a mess of someone else's life.  Same with "solutions" to GW.  I've recently begun to hear of schemes to control GW by placing foreign materials into the upper atmosphere so as to reflect a portion of the sun's energy back into space.  No doubt some of the great minds at the Pentagon are already seeing the $$$ on that one.

No Dad we didn't do it.
Maybe the shale/nuke idea isn't that great? Don't mind me but I want to pass OK?
I can't stop laughing at this picture. . .

It reminds me of when my boys decided to 'shampoo the carpet.'

Good article, HO. You real world guys are finally catching up to the "visionaries" like myself. ;-)

I wrote an article a while back on using nuclear explosives in the tarsands, and to stimulate ordinary gas/oil fields.

The article has links to old research by the US and USSR, and a nice illustration of what the cavern from an undergound nuclear explosion looks like (with links to lots more info and pictures).

Nuke the Tarsands

JD, I thought you had given up on posting on PO- just lurking now? :)
JD, I thought you were against our current car culture and waste of energy.

I wish you luck with your nuclear oil.

JD - So it is better to detonate nuclear explosions to try to scratch 100 000 barrels per day that change the way we drive around?
Absolutely not. But they're not going to be nuking the shale etc. to satisfy my needs for oil. I don't drive.

So I'm not included in your "we". It's the people who are included in that "we" who will bear 100% of the responsibility for any tragic consequences. My conscience is clear.

Well said. I particularly liked the phrase of a commentor on your sight. Alberta with a healthy, green glow. Hahaha.
I love the way JD is always right...
JD - so you don't drive and that lets you out - really shallow thinking.

I assume of course that you also grow 100% of your own food, make 100% of your own tools and walk everywhere?

Jeez, give the guy a break.  Few enough people make energy reductions in their lifestyle as it is.  Nobody's going to do it if they've got to "grow 100% of your own food, make 100% of your own tools and walk everywhere."
Sorry that should be - than change the way we drive about
"drive around" is American, "drive about" is English. Probably better to use "drive around" here, I understand "drive about" but only due to reading that fine journal, VIZ Comic. Most of us 'merkins will think, "drive about.... what?"
Hello Heading Out,

As usual, another high quality post to get discussion rolling.  Your initial link on the Russian Gazprom--Itera deal was fascinating:
Independent gas producer Itera confirmed it had sold Gazprombank a 51 percent stake in Sibneftegaz, the owner of the vast Beregovoye field in Western Siberia, the heart of Gazprom's production base. The sale price is unknown.

The field had been lying idle because Gazprom refused Sibneftegaz access to its pipeline network.  Gazprom is the only major provider of gas to Europe and, with its control of the pipeline network, has prevented other firms from selling gas to the continent.

"We're likely to see a deal between Russia and the EU on gas supplies during the G8," Weafer predicted.
Gee, sounds to me like Gazprom's mgmt just took BP's propane scam to the next level!  It now appears that Europe does not have much choice but to take the terms offered by Putin at the G8.  Ahh, the power of making an offer they can't refuse--"The Godfather" movie

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Here is another good link, with a "great" photo when it was done in Sedan.

This whole scheme pretty much terrfies me.
I can only imagine what a complete diaster this would be.

Sent you an e-mail, HO.
An alternative way of using nuclear energy is to 'hot up' biofuels via hydrogenation. Currently this is being trialled using petro-hydrogen eg http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/03/neste_oil_and_o.html
The advantage of hydrogenated carbon based liquid fuels is that they work in existing vehicles, not fuel cell cars that need gaseous hydrogen. Along with plugin hybrid cars it is another way that biofuels can be stretched. Once again we need to know the EROEI and how costs would compare with tar sand fuel subject to carbon tax.  
To convert 1965 dollars to 2005 dollars, multiply by 5.0 (GDP deflator).

HO: wouldn't the oil and flue gases both carry significant radioactivity?

That was my first thought, too.

"Geiger counters? Dosimeters? Don't make me laugh. Get to work, or go home!"

Even if the oil didn't contain radioactive materials it would still be guilty by association. I expect its use would be blocked by the same people who are against nuclear power.
The cost of drilling is higher than in 1965.
The nukes are much, much, cheaper.
You just need to heat the shale to break it up.
The costs of drilling are higher, but only about 1 wildcat well in 15 was a commercial success. Development wells had a 50% success rate. Now dry holes are about 5% while commercial successes are around 2/3rds due to improvements in seismic imaging and drilling and completion techniques. I suspect, but cannot prove that the overall Return On Investment is much higher today.
From another happening:
From The Wilderness got raided:


I'm not worried.

The probelm is cheap oil and lots of it and more important before we start into decline. Once we do the decline rate kill any crazy scheme. Sure we can do this and sure it will make oil but not enough to keep the corner gas station supplied.
Agian I think were missing the point the moment there is a interupption in gas supply to any major extent is when the part is over. Since in this case we know there is no more.

Show me how the american econmomy will respond collectivley when  there is no more oil and there are minor outages. The point is its like a chemical transition point once we hit it our economy will undergo a massive phase change from cheap oil to oil for the rich.

The strength of the oil based transport system i.e efficient gasoline distribution means nothing when there is no gasoline to fill the tanks. The electrical based co network is source independent and we already have it so the flip to electrical transport at the first hint of problems will be fast and furious.

Back to oil shale this broken rock tied to a steam plant powered by the fire front would be interesting so how do you convert oil shale to electricity this post is close.

That's the question that should be asked and it works for coal also a small nuclear trigger followed by massive oxygen /water injection yields how much steam ?

I think you will find that starting fires in deap oil shale and coal followed by water injection provides the best return.

"Once we do the decline rate kill any crazy scheme."

No, only those which are crazy because they are improfitable in the short term. From what I can see (and that isn't much, true) this isn't crazy in that way.

It's an interesting idea, and one which might be used if the shit really hits the fan (although I can't imagine it being anything other than a last resort), but I kind of question the  logic behind the concept.  Might it not be more effective to simply harvest the radioactive material and use it to fuel nuclear power stations, rather than blowing it up to harvest oil?  

I also think there's a high probability that something could go wrong, causing massive problems.  We're not just playing with matches here, we're playing with nukes.  I rather expect we'll find some combination of solutions to our energy problems before getting to the point where we have to resort to such drastic measures.  Really, if we end up doing this, I see it being in a situation where we're already in so much trouble it won't do any good.  

I guess this is where I differ with the gloomers.  I think that faced with higher oil prices our society will adapt to use energy more efficiently.  In particular we will transport ourselves more efficiently (and there are huge margins for improvement here).  I don't buy the idea that we're going to keep going about business as usual, while scrambling tooth and nail to eek out every last drop of oil.  Society will adapt to the reality of scarce energy before we get to the point where we start nuking tar sands.  We'll have a nuclear reactor practically on every street corner before then, and I suspect the uranium  (or plutonium?) will be more valuable for fuel than as a weapon or demolitions material.  

Trick is storage; you can't run cars off uranium.
Another 5-10 years of battery research and it won't be a problem.  Some recent advancements already are verging on making batteries a viable storage medium for use in electric cars.  
Batteries already work to 100 miles.
Hello TODers,

If the US & Russia go ahead and use nukes for oil mining: how can we argue against Iran, or any other country building nuclear weapons for underground mining too?

If there a fundamental difference in nuclear explosive design?  Or is it easy to quickly strap a 'nuclear drill bit' to an intercontinental missile?

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

  The US will rely on its old standards about nuclear weaponry-hipocracy and an overwhelming faith in the innate stupidity of the American people. And based on current events and the American acceptance of the last two rigged elections this faith is more than justified.
Hello OilmanBob,

Thxs for responding.  Jay Hanson thinks that as many countries as possible will go the nuke route because the US, Russia, etc won't give up theirs, but be essentially unwilling to use the force necessary to prevent proliferation.  North Korea, which is just a piddling little power, built nukes against the world's wishes, now Iran is doing the same--so it goes...This will continue until some event causes a tipping point for the full-on nuclear gift exchange.

They say it won't be a matter of who can destroy someone else-- it will be a contest to see who can nuclear sift the dust and ashes the finest!  If it truly comes to this gift exchange: my goal is to be hopefully drinking my last beer at the precise GPS ground zero coordinates of an incoming ICBM.

Our genes are not our friends!

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Heading Out,

Politically this is a non-starter. Better to devote a thread to a nuke plant supplying the heat energy for Canada or American oil shales/sands.

Much of the radioactive material generated (anticipated to be tritium) would be fused into the wall of the cavity, or caught in the gas that could be drawn off and collected through the boreholes subsequently used to take advantage of the blast.

How radioactively contaminated would the resulting oil be? What will be done with the resulting gasses?

Which brings up the second advantage of nuclear explosives. About 2.5 months after the shot the temperature at the wall of the cavity will still be around 1,000 degrees F, and some 11 months after the shot it will be around 180 degrees.

Doesn't that actually *burn* the stuff? I vaguely recall that oil is formed from kerogen at 70 degrees C, give or take some.

Yeh, wouldn't it be humanly impossible to mine the site, due to radiation?
Sounds great! Can we nuke the hippies too? I hear they eat lots of hemp oil!
Off topic, but possibly interesting article in today's sciencedaily (dot com)- "New Research May Reduce Global Need for Nitrogen [fertilizer]." Plant geneticists working on ways for non-legumes to fix nitrogen. While hardly a done deal yet, seem to be making some progress. (Also in this issue, a rather enigmatic article "Light Generated by Sawdust," work being done by the Bauman Moscow State Engineering University.)
Maybe we could dump a couple spent fuel rods down each hole along with the weapon.  This could potentially double the yield and help with those pesky "what do we do with all these fuel rods" problems.
This insane scheme is a "peaceful" use for nuclear weapons?  That's ludicrous.  Beyond crazy.  There is NO peaceful use for nukes except keeping them from frickin' going off.  Disgusting is the feeling I get.  Great idea, let's use nukes in order to continue the rampant destruction of our habitat and the entire world ecosystem.  May excess consumption wither on the vine ASAP, so that the human race can learn to live sustainably before completely destroying the planet.  Thanks for helping me make up my mind ;) - I just decided that the answer to an age old question is NO: there is no intelligent life in the universe, at least not from where I'm sitting.  How's that for a rant? ;)

What the hell, I just changed my mind.  Let's do it.  Let's blow some shit up - sounds fun! Hell I'm not having any children - it's your kids that will inherit this mess.

> There is NO peaceful use for nukes except keeping them from frickin' going off.

I know about one. Nudging large asteroids out of collision course with earth. You detonate the nuke above the surface of the asteroid and the X-ray radiation vaporizes the top layer wich then acts as a very big one impulse rocket engine.

But if you can plot the course early enough you can do the necessercy orbit change by painting it or attaching a solar sail. The later you try to change the orbit the more impulse you need. The best thing with using nukes is that they are lightweight and proven techonoly, its the only thing that can be done in a few months notice if an asteroid is detected that will hit within a few years.

This is a very low probability risk that has very bad consequences when it happens again as it has done some millions of years apart during earth history. I regard it as a big enough risk that it is wise too run observatories to map the solar system in detail and make other discoveries along the way. It is also a good additional reason to continously send fairly heavy space probes to learn more about our solar system neighbours to keep the knowledge fresh and a production line open. And we do anyway need the same technology for GPS, weather and communication satellites. And I would not advocate a total nuclear disarmement but would prefer to have a small stockpile of compact hydrogen bombs locked up in multinational storage as long as we dont have other proven technology for this need.

I would like to compare this precautions with understanding climate to avoid global warming and the next ice age.

My God! I never thought I would see "Ploughshare" being discussed again in my lifetime!

At one point I had a book with abstracts of some of the proposals that were developed under this program, but it did not survive one of the "culls" of my library, and now I'm regretting that decision.

Other ideas that were proposed under this program included blasting harbours in Alaska, creating a new Panama canal further to the south to avoid the need for as many locks in the system, and damming rivers by planting nukes in canyon walls so that the rubble would block them (The Soviets actually did this one as I recall). Also building spacecraft that would shit nukes out the back and ride a series of shockwaves.

Is it "technically feasable" to do this? Perhaps. I do know for a fact that it is "technically feasable" to make lamp shades from human skin, I'd put this proposal in the same catagory

10,000 nukes for a Dead Sea, Red Sea canal?
Solves sea level rise for years!
Might touch off some Rift earthquakes...
If movement of activated kerogen and/or contamined groundwater isn't a major issue when oil shale is liquified in situ, why is Shell spending so much money on developing freeze walls?  Why wouldn't you need a freeze wall around the nuke-liquified site too?  
On NPR one of the talking heads was claiming 'claories in a lbs of oil shale is the same as a lbs of potatoes'.

Trying to prove that correct (Which I could not) I found this.


One tone of potatoes = 21 lbs of crude oil (more or less)   And the oil shale that is looking to be exploited has more oil per ton of source ore than the potato.

I didn't happen to hear the NPR report -- sorry I missed it -- but I suspect that the "potato" reference comes from a Randy Udall/Steve Andrews piece that you can read over at Energybulletin.

America's "vast," "immense" deposits of shale have the energy density of a baked potato.
The numbers don't support the claim unless:

the potatoe is baked in oil
very low oil content shale

Or some combo of both.

   The shale series here is claiming tens of barrels of oil per ton of source rock.   And a barrel of oil has more joules than a a ton of potatoes.

Maybe that's a baked potato with lots of butter and sour cream.
Alas, that is possible, given how much energy is in fat.

If raw potatoes had the same or more energy per lb than 'oil shale' the logic of disturbing oil shae for energy would have to be questioned.

You can get a helluva lot of ethanol from a ton of potoatoes.
  Where have you been? Someone said writing a book....

Good to see you post


There are about 30K calories (AKA "food calories, AKA "kilocalories) per gallon of diesel, as a rough approximation.  The web says a ton of shale produces 10-25 gallons of oil per ton.  Or 300K-740K calories per ton, or 150-375 calories per pound.

Baked potatoes have 85 calories per 100g, or 386 calories per pound.

That seems like a match, at the high end (25 gallon yield per ton).

The oil shale has sooo much more roughage!
  Y'all are making me hungry!
Hmmmm... so now Chavez will have a legitimate excuse to obtain nukes.
It would seem so. However, were these thoughts ascribed to a Venezuelan think tank, we would cry "madness". For us to discuss them is merely "science" or the dispassionate deployment of technology.
Ploughshare is a fine example of the sort of thinking you get when your only tool is a hammer... or a nuke.
Poor planet earth.

This is so much like the story of the boy and giving tree. First the tree supports his swing and he climbs it's branches and eats it's apples. The boy grows up, he needs a house, the tree gave him wood. When the boy becomes an old man, he needs a quiet place to sit and rest, so he sat on the tree stump.

I don't know if you were aware, but there is a Colorado constitutional provision that prohibits underground nuclear blasting unless specifically approved by the citizens of Colorado. I know this because I was part of a group that put this on the ballot in 1974.  We've fought this battle before and will fight this battle again if necessary.
  What about Utah and Wyoming, also containing large sections of the Green River formation? And what about all the Missipian-Devonian shales underlying much of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and West Viginia and Virginia? It must be great to live in a democracy.
   But, on EROI, nuking the rest of the world gives 100% of the oil for Amerika!  
This post really knocked HO down a notch in my books, and I've really enjoyed most of his technical posts on the oil & gas industry. Just to be sure, I reread the post looking for hints that he wasn't taking this scheme seriously, but didn't find any. Infact, I can't find any criticisms of Plowshare in the post at all. And there are plenty of criticisms of the project.

If it's been around since the 60s and never advanced beyond the testing phase despite two oil crises, what does that say? I'm seriously thinking that more digging should have been done before the post was made.

From the Wikipedia page:

If it was successful, plans called for the use of hundreds of specialized nuclear explosives in the western Rockies gas fields. The previous two tests had indicated that the produced natural gas would be too radioactive for safe use. After the test it was found that the blast cavities had not connected as hoped, and the resulting gas still contained unacceptable levels of radionuclides.

By 1974, approximately 82 million dollars had been invested in the nuclear gas stimulation technology program. It was estimated that even after 25 years of gas production of all the natural gas deemed recoverable, that only 15 to 40 percent of the investment could be recovered.

Also, the concept that stove burners in California might soon emit trace amounts of blast radionuclides into family homes did not sit well with the general public. The contaminated well gas was never channeled into commercial supply lines.

The radioactive blast debris from 839 U.S. underground nuclear test explosions remains buried in-place and has been judged impractical to remove by the DOE's Nevada Site Office.

I mean, not to get personal, but... JD endorses it! That's a clear sign that further reflection is needed. ;)

   How many BTU's of Kerogen can be recovered vs how many if we did not do it at all and used the fissible material to make elctricity/hydrogen etc.  Is there more than an order of magnitude difference?  Also if you burn petrol with radioactive impurities won't that aerisolize them?  

There was a recent post about shell or another of the majors "cooking" the shale with windpower and using the wind as a reserve for peak demand.  That seems much better.  This nuke plan is like pissing down your milkshake straw to get the last little bit of shake out.  Yeah you'll rinse it out, but will you want to drink it?

Love that analogy, LOL!
The analogy, while good, seems technically difficult.
   Use a larger straw !
The thing is that like proposing nuclear power plants for extracting oil from the Tar Sands using nuclear bombs to extract oil is completely insane.

If this was the choice over nuclear power stations producing electricity for plug in hybrids and electric cars I would go for the nuclear power, even though I am adamantly against nuclear power, instead of this insane scheme to prolong our unsustainable oil car culture with nuclear weapons.

Alberta is a long way from anywhere and if you are going to all the trouble and expense of building a nuke plant there to make oil doesn't it make more sense just to build the plant closer to civilisation and use the electricity?

In the same way why explode bombs to get oil shale when you can just generate electricity?

Because this way we can continue to generate greenhouse gases!

(Sorry ...)

I think that's why it's just talk.
Wouldn't the nuke method be worth it if it allowed us to live or large lives unchanged?
A dominant atribute of life today as I see it is an ever increasing velocity of change. This includes energy issues but also everything else technology touches. So when you say "unchanged" do you mean keeping this atribute of life? (assuming you agree with me that it exsists). Or do you mean would nukes be good if they slowed or stopped change? Or does your life change only a little? i.e. are you living in an Amish collective and in deep denial about how the weather is changing?

Also, who is "Us" ?

nuke the rockies for oil! this is hilarious stuff!
i love these comedy blogs.
yep, nuke them rockies to cling hopelessly to a non-renewable resource! continually deny that developing renewable energy resources is the most important step forward that humanity could take in our lifetimes! no, let's just bust out the nukes instead! this is great comedy!
A dominant atribute of life today as I see it is an ever increasing velocity of change. This includes energy issues but also everything else technology touches. So when you say "unchanged" do you mean keeping this atribute of life? (assuming you agree with me that it exsists). Or do you mean would nukes be good if they slowed or stopped change? Or does your life change only a little? i.e. are you living in an Amish collective and in deep denial about how the weather is changing?

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