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Al Fin

Al Fin

Al Fin runs a number of very successful blogs that cover, energy, technology, news and politics.

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Oil Shale Mining and Research Picking Up Steam

Estonia's largest oil shale mining company, Eesti Energia, reported the largest oil shale production figures in 18 years for 2010 - 17 million tons, up 3 million tons from the year before.

The bulk of the national power company Eesti Energia's mining subsidiary's production is used in the furnaces of the Narva power plants, which have significantly geared up electricity production due to a sharp decline in imports after the closure of Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear plant. _ERRNews

The short quote above illustrates several points. First, Estonia is using its own oil shale resources to generate electrical power -- by burning oil shale (kerogen) in furnaces to drive steam turbines -- similar to one of the ways that coal is used to generate electrical power. Second, the EU's misguided drive to shut down European nuclear plants will have the effect of increasing the use of fossil fuels use. Third, oil shale kerogens are located all over the world. Most countries are not burdened by an Obama-style energy starvation regime. They will use their fossil fuel resources if they must.

Oil shale is reported from nearly 40 countries, with the largest deposits being located in the United States, Russia and China. Middle Eastern and North African resources also are large in aggregate.

Active commercial shale oil production occurs in Estonia, Brazil and China, with total global production of shale oil about 20,000 barrels per day. Informal current and future production numbers (figure 1) indicate that shale oil is unlikely to be a significant part of global production for a decade or more.

China has set aggressive goals for production over the next two decades, and the figures for the United States could be conservative, depending on the political environment.

The United States, Jordan, Israel and Morocco are nonproducing areas likely to see future shale oil production.

The United States, with over half the estimated world resources of oil shale, remains a central focus. The current political environment encourages caution, and companies are still conducting research, development and demonstration (RD&D). _AAPG

In the US, companies can find it difficult to get permits for even the most rudimentary research into improved methods of oil shales in situ production or mining. As long as that is the case, energy producers will find it slow going to develop cleaner and more efficient methods of producing a more environmentally friendly shale oil product. In other words, should it become necessary to use this resource, we will use far more environmentally destructive processes -- thanks to the faux environmental regime of Obama - Salazar and its constraints on basic energy research.

Gigantic unconventional reserves lie virtually untapped across the planet. But the massive amounts of energy needed to get at them -- and hence, the greenhouse gases released -- is a thought that makes environmentalists bolt awake at night.

...The American Petroleum Institute right now is wracking its members' brains to figure out how to blast a substance called Kerogen from solid rock in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. If this modern-day alchemy proves commercially viable, the United States could begin exploiting crude oil reserves three times the size of Saudi Arabia's. Just never mind that turning Kerogen into fuel requires massive energy inputs -- code for greenhouse gases -- and up to 3.2 barrels of water for each barrel of shale oil.

That hasn't stopped the parched Middle Eastern country of Jordan from signing two major project agreements in the past three years. And recent reports indicate a third is coming soon. _Tyee

Yes, Jordan is another country besides Estonia that will not hesitate to use its oil shale kerogens in whatever way will help the country survive and prosper.

...Jordan, where Royal Dutch Shell is thinking so far out it has signed a contract with the authorities that has the potential, given contract renewals and so on, to last more than 100 years, according to Mr Shaw. The contract, signed in 2009, grants Shell exclusive oil shale exploration rights to a concession area, where it already is drilling for oil shale samples, analyzing them and developing a geological model of Jordan’s deep oil shale resources. Shell says, “There is still a lot to be learnt about the geology and nature of the Jordan oil shale resources” before a decision on a commercial project can be taken.

That is true, as it is about oil shale resources globally. Nonetheless, it already seems clear why the majors have never gotten caught up in the peak oil arguments. Given all the potential source rocks out there, and the industry’s record of technologial advancements, they are a long way from pronouncing the last drop of oil has been produced. 

Kerogens are simply precursors to petroleum which have not been sufficiently heat and pressure treated to make the conversion to crude oil and gas. But the use of nuclear reactor heat -- to finish the job -- for in situ oil shale extraction is likely to make a big difference in global hydrocarbon resources within the next 30 years. The coming wave of small modular reactors are likely to boost oil sands production in Canada, heavy oils in Venezuela, and oil shales in the US and elsewhere -- if the energy starvationists can ever be removed from positions of power and influence.

By. Al Fin

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