Thursday, December 21, 2006

Oil Shale: Extract by Electric Heat, Steam & Gas Injection

Shell, Chevron and EGL Resources want to pump oil out of underground oil shale by using three separate techniques: 1) Electrical Heater, 2) Hot Steam and 3) CO2 injection, respectively. Shell wants to heat shale 2,000 feet deep to 650 degrees F. Chevron wants to circulate CO2 or other gases creating a chemical reaction that will force the oil up. EGL would use a radiator system under the shale and a web of pipes to pump it out of the rock. The largest deposits of oil shale are in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Government estimates put the recoverable oil from shale at 800 billion barrels, more than three times the proven reserves os Saudia Arabia. The U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of oil shale. We estimate that oil has to reamina at between $70 to $100 to justify the expense of extracting oil from shale.

The companies have the challenge of doing this without contaminating the groundwater. They must also figure out how to produce the energy needed to heat the shale without producing huge greenhouse gas emission. Maybe a small nuke plant would work. (The New York Times)

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