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The Coming Boom in Oil Shale

By Al Fin | Mon, 18 October 2010 13:45 | 4

The US is sitting on more reserves of oil-equivalent than is likely to be found in the entire Persian Gulf. Under the Obama regime that is all the US will do -- sit on it. In a more rational post-Obama world, energy resources will be utilised. More from Alexander Smith:

Oil shale has been used as fuel and as a source of oil in small quantities for many years; however, few countries currently produce oil from oil shale on a significant commercial level - the US wants to change that.

Many countries do not have significant oil shale resources, but in the countries that do, the oil shale industry has been very slow to develop. This is because, until recently, the cost of oil derived from oil shale has been significantly higher than conventional pumped oil. The same principles apply in mining. Whenever something is deeper, or harder to get to, the costs go up. With that stated, new technologies and the quick disappearance of easy access oil has spurred a revival in this sector.

...The two most famous oil shale deposits in the United States, and the world for that matter, are the Green River Formation and the Bakken Oil Shale.

The Green River Formation consists of fine-grained sedimentary rocks which hold an exceptional amount of kerogen. Estimates have accounted for more than 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Green River Formation! It is vast and spreads across Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. However, close to 75% of the deposit is located on federally owned land which will make any production from private or public companies extremely difficult. In addition, the production process at the Green River Formation has many holes in its game, and production here has yet to occur.

The Bakken Oil Shale is spread across Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that up to 4.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil exists in the Bakken. Not the unbelievable 800 billion barrels of the Green River, but still nothing to shake a stick at. The Bakken is producing oil and gas and unlike the Green River Formation, it is primarily light sweet crude. Not all oil shales are overly expensive or complicated to produce.

...Major improvements in directional and horizontal drilling techniques, along with hydraulic fracturing methods, have revolutionized shale exploration and development in the United States.

...The depth of the shale resource is important in that there are economic and physical limits on horizontal drilling along with temperature constraints for the directional tools required to orient the well. So, the deeper true vertical depth (TVD) of the shale, the more problematic the well becomes.

Most operators are comfortable with a max true vertical depth of 14,000 ft and a max horizontal leg of 10,000 ft or less. A good average for shale wells currently drilled or drilling would be 9,000 ft total vertical depth and 4,000 ft laterals. So imagine a large pole being drilled 9000 feet down with an arm reaching out 4000 feet in any direction. You can imagine how this technique would allow them to penetrate huge areas below the surface from a single well bore and tap into resources what would otherwise remain uneconomic. The deeper TVD wells drilled are found in the Haynesville play and the longer lateral wells are currently attempted in the Bakken play. _SeekingAlpha

The Obama regime has adopted an intentional policy of energy starvation, applied to as many forms of energy as possible. The only forms of energy promoted by Obama are non-viable sources that are exorbitantly expensive -- such as wind and solar. The others -- coal, nuclear, gas, oil, oil shales, etc. have either been blocked or impeded by strangulating regulations, bureaucratic prohibitions and foot-dragging.

Energy starvation policies tend to kill economies, as we see in the US with the ongoing Obama depression. But sooner or later, Obama will be gone. And those who are closely associated with him will be largely discredited. At that point, the vast energy resources of North America will be tapped. Because the alternative is energy starvation. And you do not want to see that.

By. Al Fin

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  • Anonymous on October 18 2010 said:
    One comment. The Bakken is a thermomaturated interval that produces true liquid crude oil, while the Green River deposits contain thermally immature kerogen that must be liquified and further refined into crude. Given these differences, there is not an equivalent comparison in either current production methods or economics.
  • Anonymous on October 19 2010 said:
    Yes, few energy columnists seem to know the difference between shale oil and oil shale. The amount of hydrocarbon that exists is not in question for oil shale or oil sands -- in the trillions of barrels (oe) for both. Both the US and the Canadian resource dwarfs the stated reserves in the middle east, although the middle east probably has far more oil than is stated in the reserves.
  • Anonymous on October 19 2010 said:
    Is there not an issue about the quality of the oil produced from shale? Some say it is third rate oil that is not worth the cost of extraction for that reason alone. That it can't be used to fuel transport or to produce good quality plastic.Anyone care to comment?
  • Anonymous on October 20 2010 said:
    I'll give you a comment, Philip. The talk about shale oil is crank. In my book on oil a couple of centuries ago I put in a good word for shale oil. At a conference in Vienna An American businessman called me a fool for my enthusiasm.And shale gas deserves a good look too. Yes, it might help us a bit, but whether it is a 'game changer' is another matter.I'm going to a couple of conferences on gas next week, and if I hear that expression 'game changer' used too much, somebody will leave those conferences with hurt feelings.

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