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Page added on December 29, 2008

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Million dollar question: how to get oil from shale

Opinions differ about what role oil will play in the energy future of the United States and what role oil shale should have. Should oil shale be developed and, if so, when and how? Many geologists, engineers, physicists, chemists and others have been studying oil shale and its potential for years and have established some basic facts.
Shell Oil has been a leader in developing new technologies in oil shale extraction in recent years.

Much of the information discussed here is from an October 2007 article in Fortune magazine detailing Shell’s method called the In Situ Conversion Process or ICP.

The in situ method being used in Shell Oil’s experimental tract involves drilling a well through the oil shale layer (about 2,000 feet) and lowering heated rods that will eventually heat the shale to 650 degrees Farenheit to release the oil.

It may take about a year for the shale to reach the necessary temperature. Once the oil is freed from the rock, it is pumped to the surface much like in a conventional oil well.

Shell recovered 1,700 barrels of light, high-quality oil from a 30-foot by 40-foot test area using this method. In a commercial-sized tract, an ice barrier would have to be formed around the tract to prevent contamination of the surrounding ground water.

According to a Rand Corp. estimate, a power plant would have to be constructed that would consume 5 million tons of coal per year to produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

However, Shell says it could obtain the needed energy from the natural gas produced by the process.

GJ Sentinel

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