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Peak Oil, Meet 3 Trillion Barrels Oil Equivalent: Bringing the Heat

Peak Oil, Meet 3 Trillion Barrels Oil Equivalent: Bringing the Heat thumbnail

There’s no question, says Rusco, that the oil is there, all 3 trillion barrels of it…

…Both the GAO and private industry estimate the amount of oil recoverable to be 3 trillion barrels.

“In the past 100 years — in all of human history — we have consumed 1 trillion barrels of oil. There are several times that much here,” said Roger Day, vice president for operations for American Shale Oil (AMSO). _ABCnews

Will Advanced Kerogen Production Put a Ceiling on Global Oil Prices?

Enefit, an oil producer headquartered in Estonia, has been producing oil from oil shale in Europe for more than 30 years, according to the CEO of its Utah subsidiary, Enefit American Oil. Rikki Hrenko says Enefit brings the shale to the surface, then heats it in retorts.

“It’s more labor intensive to have to mine the shale,” Hrenko said. “But the economics are still quite feasible.” She puts the break-even price at about $65 a barrel. The cost of producing in Utah, she thinks, will be only slightly higher than in Estonia. _ABCNews

But in reality, in situ production would be cheaper in the Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming than mining in Estonia — if producers used a cheap enough source of abundant, high quality heat. In fact, being able to produce a resource of 3 trillion boe, at a price of between $60 and $70 a barrel, might seem to place a price ceiling on global oil.

The only problem is that it will probably take 20 years before the technology and cheap process heat are ready to meet the government regulations and prevailing prices for oil.

Yes, it will probably also be 20 years before modular high temperature gas cooled nuclear reactors are approved in the US and produced in high enough numbers to be placed at Green River well heads.

But even when the technology, the cheap heat, the environmental approvals, and the market prices all come together, there is still the problem of getting the oil to global markets. The big price gap between WTI and Brent points out the problem nicely. Adding refined oil shale kerogens to the North American mix would not help the problem of lack of access to ports.

Getting the product to market is a serious problem, in a political environment where the US Democratic Party has stonewalled the export of abundant shale gas, and obstructed LNG terminal construction in US ports. Current agendas of energy starvation cause the cost of doing all business — including energy business — to shoot up accordingly.

Overall, US demand for oil has been on a downward slope, while US shale oil production has grown exponentially. US oil & gas production combined with energy imports from Canada and Mexico, leave little need for imports from the middle east.

So US demand for oil shale kerogens at this time is minimal. The US economy overall is “hunkered down” and shell shocked — uncertain about the prospects of 4 more years under the Obama administration.

But, there is still the possibility that the US might eventually clean up its economic act and stop accumulating Obama-debt and stop devaluing the Obama-dollar. If that happens, the US will need a lot more energy.

If the US should ever need to produce its 3 trillion barrels of oil equivalent from Green River Shale kerogens, will the cheap, abundant, high temperature heat be ready?

A group of far-sighted companies, including AREVA, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Entergy, Graftech International Ltd., Mersen, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, SGL Group, Technology Insights, Toyo Tanso Co. Ltd., and Westinghouse are pursuing the development of a true next-generation nuclear technology referred to as the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) for the past few years. Without too much technical detail, HTGRs are helium-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors with robust ceramic-coated fuel that operate at temperatures at or above 750 Degrees Celsius (1400 Fahrenheit) where conventional light water reactors operate at temperatures less than half that. In short:

The design is intrinsically safe. It requires neither active or passive systems nor operator interventions to remain safe, thereby allowing co-location near major industrial facilities.
High temperature output that allow direct substitution for fossil fuel use in industrial process heat applications.
Much higher efficiency leading to lower energy cost, making it competitive with natural gas in many places of the world today without any price for carbon. _NGNPAlliance_via_NBF

The importance of cheap, plentiful, high quality industrial process heat cannot be overstated . . .

Here is a short link list of some things that you can do with cheap, virtually unlimited high quality process heat:

  1. Unlock the trillions of barrels oil equivalent in oil sands (PDF)
  2. Unlock the trillions of barrels oil equivalent in coal to liquids and gas to liquids (PDF)
  3. Unlock the trillions of barrels oil equivalent in shale oil kerogens
  4. Provide abundant industrial process heat for production of fertilisers, refining fuels, making plastics, etc
  5. Split CO2 into CO to use as a hydrogen carrier
  6. Overturn conventional fears of EROEI and Peak Oil

Those things, and many more — including biomass to liquids and gas hydrates to liquids — will be accomplished by next generation gas-cooled high temperature nuclear reactors.
NGNPAlliance Home Page

4 Page PDF HTGR Description w/ Images

The image above matches different industrial processes with the level of heat required. Since HTGRs can provide abundant heat up to 850 C or 900 C, all of the lucrative processes listed in the image suddenly come within economical reach — once HTGRs are perfected, licensed, and mass produced in factory-built modular units.

The image above provides thumbnail images of different processes that will become more profitable with the abundant availability of high temperature, high quality process heat.

Why do we at Al Fin Energy continue to emphasise the importance of HTGRs? Because if the US government had devoted half as much attention to developing and perfecting the mass production of safe, relatively inexpensive, and reliable HTGR modules — instead of wasting hundreds of $billions on intermittent unreliable forms of energy — the “energy crisis” would have been solved by now.

The fact that this has not been done, reveals for a certainty that government is not serious about providing inexpensive, clean, abundant energy for industry and society at large. Government energy policy is instead based upon more corrupt and ideological motivations, which delay the era of energy abundance unnecessarily.

 Al Fin

25 Comments on "Peak Oil, Meet 3 Trillion Barrels Oil Equivalent: Bringing the Heat"

  1. DC on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 6:29 pm 

    LoL!, nothing to see here, just more of this AL-Nothing Shill.

  2. Beery on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 6:48 pm 

    “She puts the break-even price at about $65 a barrel.”

    Aaaah haa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    In her dreams! Or maybe it’s a typo, or maybe she just forgot to put a ‘1’ between the ‘$’ and the ’65’.

  3. oilforbreakfast on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 7:57 pm 

    Wouldn’t it just make more sense to use the nuclear power plants to produce electricity instead of heating up the kerogen hundreds of feet underground? And use the electricity to fuel all the short trip vehicles and create hydrogen for the interstate fleet.

  4. Rick on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 8:00 pm 

    More propaganda. Nukes are not the answer. Less people is.

  5. actioncjackson on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 8:50 pm 

    Let’s hypothetically say that they’re 2 trillion left in the ground that can be accessed at a rate fast enough to appease 90 mbpd world appetite. 2 trillion divided by 90 million leaves 22,222 days, or divided by 365, 60.9 years at our current rate of consumption.

  6. actioncjackson on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 9:11 pm 

    Plus when they “Bring the Heat”, they’re going to destroy life on earth.

  7. sparky on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 9:48 pm 

    There seems to be a misunderstanding
    any electrical generator using the thermal path need cooling, a lot of it

    nuclear power plants have massive requirement , near equal to their rated power , that’s what the cooling towers are doing , those massive structure belching water vapor

    using this heat to send it underground seems logical , but the techs are not so straightforward , proximity for one
    and a rather involved network of pipes
    the nuclear techs are bound to look upon this as a BAD THING ,
    too complicated and it would compromise the overall safety rating of operations

  8. James on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 9:55 pm 

    I wonder what the EROI would be on the use of heat to liquify the Kerogen out of the shale? I bet it is not what the customer will like.

  9. Arthur on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 9:58 pm 

    Why would a spokeswoman lie about the production cost of 65$ per barrel? She is from a company with 30 years of experience in the shale business. If it is not profitable they would have gone bust a long time ago. In time with increasing prices for conventional oil their business prospects will get better with every passing year.

    And so are the prospects of wind and solar! 🙂

  10. Arthur on Tue, 20th Nov 2012 10:02 pm 

    oilforbreakfast: nuclear plants always produce waste heat. The proposition is to use this excess heat to extract shale.

  11. BillT on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 1:44 am 


    What are they going to do? Put the Earth in a huge wine press and squeeze it out? Of course they may be correct in the amount, but the EROEI is going to limit the actual recovery and use. Idiots!
    AlFin is a joke, a BAD joke.

  12. MrEnergyCzar on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 2:15 am 

    We can’t grow on $90 oil…. this is desperate….


  13. DMyers on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 2:17 am 

    Arthur, tell us where we should touch you with an electric cattle prod in order to reinvigorate your cynicism. Taking this 65$ example, it is not a deception on the part of the spokeswoman, but rather a self-deception (recently described as “optimism bias”).

    Your mention of the increasing prices for conventional oil suggests one key issue we have with the sixty five dollar solution. First, let’s acknowledge that the sixty-five dollar price sounds good (for political context).

    Some of us think the cost is bound to go higher because of the high energy investment involved in shale oil extraction. Some of us think that the sixty five buck break even, whether manifest or imaginary, can only remain low for so long as there is still relatively cheap conventional oil fueling, at least, the peripheral processes.

  14. JJH on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 8:36 am 

    There is only one thing to say


  15. Arthur on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 9:04 am 

    DMyers, I am totally against what Bill calls squeezing the planet out to the last drop. What I do want to know is if the potential is there or not of another three trillion barrels. I do not want to delude myself, just because I thought in the very recent past that peak oil is now. There are too many people dismissing the potential of shale by crying ‘EROEI’ without having a clue of what the value actually is. Even Heinberg admits he does not know, but he is so deep invested as mr peakoil that he will hold on to his theory until he can’t any longer. I accept peak conventional oil now, but I have a totally open mind about shale and have no idea about the true potential. What I do know is that this planet is f***** if these trillions of barrel really do exist. If there are three trillion in the US alone, you can be sure there are many trillions elsewhere. And that could destroy any impuls to switch to renewables.

  16. Arthur on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 10:11 am 

    Talking about EROEI… look at it this way: a barrel of oil represents something like eight manyears of hard physical labour. So if a team of say 20 drillers are able to produce 500 barrel a day, they convert 20 man days of physical labour into 4000 man year of physical labour, that is an EROEI of zillion. That is the proper way of looking at it and not the financial side of it, which to a large extent consists of high labour costs. If you consider that an average Ukrainian makes 500 dollar a month and an American oil worker maybe 5000$ a month… and both survive… and that Americans are not ten times as good, productive as Ukrainians, then it is not difficult to guess that after a great default Americans oil workers also make 600$ a month and that from that moment on the price of shale oil could come down considerably. Moral: the question whether shale oil will be exploited or not is determined by EROEI in terms of human physical labour equivalent and not finance.

  17. BillT on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 10:18 am 

    I’m not worried, Arthur. The system that can recover those barrels has also peaked and is being kept on life support by running printing presses full out in many countries. The whole support system is going to collapse. Wars are going to explode in the oil regions and cut more supply and there will not be enough to make the equipment to drill or mine because the 240 million car owners/drivers in the US will be in the streets burning down banks and gas station by the dozens.

    Guys, You all think I am thinking too negative. Nope. I am thinking that if I prepare NOW, then I can be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen.
    But, if I am deluded to believe that the world will go on slipping slowly into the future with no drastic change and it DOES happen in the next few years, then I am screwed.
    I personally think it WILL happen but there are so many reasons that I cannot enumerate them all here. Intuition happens when there are a thousand little clues and your brain puts them all together to make a vision of what’s up. THAT is what I am going on. I read dozens of articles from about 30 worldwide sites every day. Do you?

  18. BillT on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 10:25 am 

    BTW: Arthur, EROEI does NOT start at the well head, it starts in the mines that make the equipment to make the stuff that is used to make a wellhead, and the machines that make those machines to mine the ores, etc. There is so much energy NOT included that WILL disappear when oil gets too expensive either in dollars or energy and dies. You will not see those numbers because they may already be in the negative EROEI for the sources we use today and when they are worn out and cannot be replaced the wall will be hit. I worked in a steel foundry early in my life and I know that ores will NOT be mined, refined and smelted into new machines with ANY renewable. Not even nuclear, which is also on it’s death bed and about time. You appear to be just another denier that doesn’t want to look at the whole picture.

  19. Arthur on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 11:24 am 

    If even Dennis Meadows, the world super modeller, has given up on predicting the future as there are too many variables that all interact, who are we to pretend to know what is going to happen? De mens wikt, god beschikt. Humans like to consider, god determines. If he exists. I think I am going to make myself a nice cup of coffee.

  20. BillT on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 11:29 am 

    Do you grow that coffee in your country? They do in mine. Also chocolate and sugar. Guess I’m set! ^_^

  21. Jeremy Boak on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 3:33 pm 

    Perhaps because I work most of the time on oil shale, what most impresses me about the comments on this article is the willingness of numerous commentators to dismiss factual input in favor of their smug opinions. There are definitely uncertainties about the likely price, the energy return on investment (although all reputable estimates give it a positive return), and other aspects of oil shale development. Much of that 3 trillion barrels of oil is in rock that is too lean to be a reasonable target for development. The resource in the western U. S. is by far the largest, and the global resource could potentially double it, but only by including more of the marginal resources. But there is a very large amount of oil technically recoverable in oil shale, and it deserves a chance to prove its capability.

    Rikki Hrenko, has been a professional colleague for the past six years, and she may turn out to be underestimating the costs to operate in the U. S., where the government is distinctly opposed to that development. However, she is not wrong about the costs at present – she is just citing actual fact, not self-righteous opinion.

    If we don’t solve the CO2 capture and sequestration problem, oil shale will not be the main cause of our difficulties, and if we do, it will benefit equally from the solution. It is not evident that a switch to renewables will happen fast, as they are generally too expensive still. I think we will ultimately make that transition, but it is a long way off. Just my opinion, and I have no clue how valid it is.

    Published estimates of EROEI for oil shale include material uses, if you are reading the work of Stanford’s Adam Brandt, the only serious analyst who has done recent estimates of oil shale energy and CO2 balance. He suggests returns of 2.5 to 1 or more, so clearly positive, if potentially challenging.

  22. Arthur on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 11:05 pm 

    Hear, hear. Thanks for the balanced response. Are you saying that EROEI for shale is merely 2.5?

    To plug renewables, here I discovered prices for complete solar systems in the Netherland, coming down to one euro per Watt, with 25 year power garantee, incl DC-AC transformer. For the price of a second hand car you have your electricity needs covered for a generation.

  23. Arthur on Wed, 21st Nov 2012 11:13 pm 

    Here an eight page article by Adam Brandt:

    It ain’t pretty. Very low indeed.

  24. Arthur on Thu, 22nd Nov 2012 9:42 am 

    Correction, refers to Adam Brandt.

    Wikipedia cites an 1984 study that says that EROEI values are in the range of 3-10.

  25. rollin on Thu, 29th Nov 2012 3:08 am 

    This is about as wasteful, polluting and inefficient a scheme as I have ever heard.

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