Lots of emails responding to my piece on oil independence with the main comments regarding shale oil inside the continental US. The first and foremost problem is the huge quantity of fresh water required to extract the oil from the shale. We cannot just drain the Great Lakes. There is simply not enough water between the Lakes and the Pacific to extract the oil. The discussion ends right there.

Worse, is the huge amounts of sludge produced by the process and what to do with it. This oil ain't just lying around there. It's locked up inside of rocks. Don't get carried away. Oil must be selling above $100 per barrel to make this even close to being at break even (as of this AM 9/16, Brent Crude is less than $89). Then there is the problem presented when the shale is removed from the ground and processed by super heating to 700 degrees which causes a thirty percent expansion of the source rock. This expansion makes it impossible to return the environment to its original state.

BUT there have been developments along another front which constitutes separating the rock from the shale oil by using a solvent.
This is called the "solvent extraction method" but again this technology is decades away and at this time we don't know anything at all about it.

Bottom line: Shale oil is not a solution right now.

1 comment:

Xiaoding said...

Just read of a new process...essentially, they put a refinery in the ground! Then run a pressure front towards it, at 600C...supposedly, makes it much more economical, less water needed. Test's to come!