GREEN RIVER OIL SHALE
AMERICA’S ACE ENERGY RESERVE
If we are running out of fossil fuel oil, can we refine fuel from oil shale? What is Green River Oil Shale? And just how big is the supply?
Another largely overlooked alternative fossil fuel source is oil shale, which shares several characteristics with oil sands but is still a different energy form. Refining usable fuel oil from oil shale requires a somewhat different approach than oil sands. Harvesting the fuel contained in shale will also involve, at least in part, strip mining methods and synthesizing with hydrogen to produce usable diesel and gasoline fuels.
The active, burnable ingredient in oil shale is
, which is a very large carbon and hydrogen containing molecule. When heated in a
, kerogen breaks down into smaller hydrocarbon molecules including bitumen (the active ingredient in oil sands).
As detailed in the Department of Energy reports below, global reserves of oil shale are huge and may add over 2.6 trillion barrels to our known global fuel supply. And the vast majority of these reserves are found in North America, right here in the United States in the Green River oil shale formations in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The United States deposits alone are estimated to be in excess of 1.6 trillion barrels; which is more than the total known global resources of conventional oil.
Most of the Green River Oil Shale formations are located on U.S. Government land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. With the assistance of a number of other Federal bodies, including the United States Geological Survey and the Department of Energy, they have completed an analysis of the extent and nature of the deposits, their strategic importance, and the environmental impact of their development.
Department of Energy Oil Shale Reference
gives a brief overview of oil shale and includes a map of the Green River oil shale deposits.
A bit more detailed report on shale can be found in this
Oil & Gas Journal Oil Shale Analysis
compiled for the Department of Energy.
Also under Department of Energy supervision is a detailed study of oil shale, and the specific importance of Green River oil shale, by the Office of Naval Petroleum and Shale Reserves. The report is lengthy, informative, and surprisingly free of politics.
Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves Part 1
report discusses the current world petroleum situation, how supply and demand pressures are affecting prices, the importance of the situation to U.S. security interests, and what we in the U.S. need to do about it.
Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves Part II
report includes details on Western oil shale resources and infrastructure with an emphasis on the Green River Oil Shale Resources. The report includes a summary of environmental impact concerns.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management Oil Shale Summary
gives a brief summary of their studies on oil shale.
In spite of U.S. Government involvement, the Green River Oil Shale resource is largely untapped although there are at least two technologies that may prove to be both environmentally friendly and economical enough to harvest this resource on a competitive basis with current crude oil prices.
Oil Tech Inc.
is a relatively new company that has improved shale development technologies to a level that promises to make above ground retorting competitive with conventional oil.
One of the oldest oil companies in the business has been developing an oil shale harvesting method that will eliminate above ground retorting and strip mining by heating the shale underground and then pumping it out like a conventional oil well. If you visit the
Shell Oil Shale Search
page and enter the search term 'oil shale', you will see that they have over eighty links to their own oil shale projects.
While the new oil shale development technologies are promising, investors are well aware of the billions that were lost on Green River oil shale projects in the years following the
Arab Oil Embargo
of the 1970’s. Still, the current state of oil economics suggests strongly that oil shale may finally prove to be a good investment. Investors are still wary, but cash is starting to flow into a number of oil shale projects.
Development of this one resource alone could end our dependence on oil imports for the foreseeable future. While it is not without complications, oil shale development is a solution to our energy problems that can happen now. And it can give us much needed time to develop more permanent, and cleaner, solutions to the worlds endless and ever increasing demand for energy.
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