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Monday, September 05, 2005

Shell deals Peak Oil doom-mongerers a fatal blow

Shell has redeemed itself for falsifying oil reserve figures: they've figured out a profitable method for extracting oil and gas from oil shale.
Drill shafts into the oil-bearing rock. Drop heaters down the shaft. Cook the rock until the hydrocarbons boil off, the lightest and most desirable first. Collect them. Please note, you don't have to go looking for oil fields when you're brewing your own.
Much of the risk in the oil industry is exploring and drilling for oil. Even if you know a region (e.g. southern Iraq) has lots of hydrocarbons at fairly shallow depths, the subsurface rock can have complicated structures like faults and old river channels which prevent oil flowing into a drilled well (this is a ridiculous oversimplification, but highlights the point). Shell's heating method sounds like it reduces much of the risk, especially when you consider the following...
On one small test plot about 20 feet by 35 feet, on land Shell owns, they started heating the rock in early 2004. "Product" - about one-third natural gas, two-thirds light crude - began to appear in September 2004. They turned the heaters off about a month ago, after harvesting about 1,500 barrels of oil.

While we were trying to do the math, O'Connor told us the answers. Upwards of a million barrels an acre, a billion barrels a square mile. And the oil shale formation in the Green River Basin, most of which is in Colorado, covers more than a thousand square miles - the largest fossil fuel deposits in the world.
Of course it will take years to ramp up production, perhaps even a decade or two. But what good timing, eh?

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 9/05/2005 12:00:00 am


Blogger Tane said...

Well, it certainly sounds pretty impressive. Oil shale, despite the name, doesn't actually contain oil, but a substance called kerogen. It's the precursor to oil, but once it's cooked, you get what we need, oil and lots of it. The shale reserves in Colarado are immense.

The article made all the right noises, especially the part about the return on energy investment; 3.5 units out for every unit in. It sounds like it will be very energy intensive and logistically laborious, but time will tell just how good it is.

I'll certainly be keeping an eye on this, and I hope it's not a load of cobblers; you may find it hard to believe but I really don't want Peak Oil to be a reality. I guess if this process is a success, we'll have to look at some way of meeting demand. I wonder how fast they can ramp up production? We will need it to be running at millions of barrels a day, the sooner the better.

9/05/2005 09:33:00 am  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

It would certainly be good news for America and Canada, especially with China ramping up consumption.

I expect we will still see ongoing pressure to get efficiencies throughout the industry: for cars, more hybrids into production; for new houses, solar panelling and gas/ceramic units to supplement energy from the grid; reduction in plastics and synthetics etc.

I did a post recently about the Hindenburg. Those zeppelins could carry tonnes of freight, with point to point delivery unhampered by roads and at less oil consumption than a fleet of trucks. Hope we see a resurgence of that kind of thing.

9/05/2005 11:17:00 am  
Blogger Bernard Woolley said...

en, I'd rather see a resurgence in rail being used for most frieght cartage where possible. Get as many trucks off the road, well at least between the main centres anway.

9/05/2005 12:25:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Zen, I saw quite a few hybrids amongst the Hummer H2's in Los Angeles. And they drivers appeared to be the types who otherwise would by Toyota Camry's - older couples more interested in quality and economy than beefy engines. There's lots of them.

9/05/2005 04:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. Our Ozzie friends have found a way to recycle low sulfur content diesel from plastics. Quoted:

Currently, 88 per cent of the 1.5 million tonnes of plastic consumed in Australia annually is sent to landfill, this amount could convert to more than 1 billion litres of low sulphur diesel. For example, a simple ice-cream container, weighing just 68 grams can be converted into a diesel fuel which will power a VW Golf car with a diesel engine for approximately one mile

More proof that markets will find ways around the limitations and problems facing them.

9/05/2005 06:15:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bernard ..zen ..and al..

you are all sounding positively green..

rail and airships..yes..yes..


9/05/2005 07:48:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

Never underestimate the power of a right wing environmentalist.

Environmentalism and sense in the one package - the Greens will be passing wind to such levels they'll be classified hazardous material.

9/05/2005 08:47:00 pm  

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