Skip to comments.In the American west: An ocean of oil
Posted on 05/13/2012 7:36:35 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
In case you missed it and you very well might have, since the media was too busy talking about gay marriage to be bothered a rather remarkable thing happened in Washington this week. An auditor from the GAO testified before the House Science Subcommittee on Energy and Environment on the subject of energy. But instead of hearing about how horrible things are, she calmly delivered something of a bombshell.
The Green River Formationan assemblage of over 1,000 feet of sedimentary rocks that lie beneath parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyomingcontains the worlds largest deposits of oil shale,Anu K. Mittal, the GAOs director of natural resources and environment said in written testimony submitted to the House Science Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.
USGS estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil, and about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions, Mittal testified.
The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, estimates that 30 to 60 percent of the oil shale in the Green River Formation can be recovered, Mittal told the subcommittee. At the midpoint of this estimate, almost half of the 3 trillion barrels of oil would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire worlds proven oil reserves.
Read those last two sentences again and think about it for a moment. The largest remaining reserves of oil on the planet are not in Saudi Arabia or buried under the frozen steppes of the former Soviet Union. Theyre here in the United States. Combined with the massive resources in western Canada, that means that North America is the King of Oil for the future. But what if anything will we do about it?
The vast majority of this supply is shale oil, a form which was essentially useless to us only a few decades ago, but now we know how to get it. And if you want to avoid ripping up the entire landscape, that means horizontal drilling and fracking. Unfortunately for us, this is one of those rare areas where the government actually can make a difference, for better or worse. The Obama administration continues to claim that they are pursuing an all of the above energy policy, but at the same time they are jumping in with new regulations regarding fracking.
If we move forward on this aggressively, the industry can safely access these resources which would significantly strengthen our hand on the international stage. But with the wrong approach, Washington could hog tie energy developers with excessive, expensive regulations or shut the entire process down by failing to issue permits to develop resources on these federal lands.
The public disclosure of these reserves is good news, but its only the beginning. And while I feel some trepidation in saying it, Im afraid the ball is in Barack Obamas court.
You have to be careful when you are talking about shale oil because some of it is locked up so tight in its source rock it requires heating to extract it. I believe the oil in Colorado is this sort and if so it will be very much more expensive than the shale oil being recovered in the bakken and other shale formations.
I well recall the thriving uranium mining that was being undertaken at Jeffery City, WY in the early 1980s. Things were booming until Ten Mile Island and Jane Fonda brought it all down almost overnight. I last saw Jeffery City a few years ago and it was dead and a modern ghost town.
” using present horizontal drilling and fracking technology shale oil is now being produced around the world.”
I believe you are confusing “shale oil” with “oil shale”. “Oil shale” is kerogen. “shale oil” is crude oil that occurs in tight shale formations that is now being produced with horizontal drilling and stage fracking techniques.
I am not a geologist, but I am told that most oil was formed in shales which are rich in organic material, then over millions of years the oil migrated to sandstones and fractured limestones that were more porous and therefore easier to produce. That is what is referred to now as conventional oil that has been produced since Drakes well of 1859.
Only recently have we been able to economically been able to produce from the tight shales. This is what is going on now in the Balken shale of North Dakota and Montana as wel as the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas.
The Green River formation is an entirely different animal.
Well, I guess the future is here. The oil of the “future” is being cracked today from the Texas Eagleford in several refineries here in Texas.
Although it is proving to be a challenge since it is a lighter crude and coking over equipment resulting in more turn arounds.
Also old time process operators are having to relearn and change their operating parameters and companies are having to retrofit equipment (add preheaters), it is being done.
“Well, I guess the future is here. The oil of the future is being cracked today from the Texas Eagleford in several refineries here in Texas.”
Listen carefully and I will repeat. The Eagleford shale oil is not the same thing as the kerogen found in the Green River formation.
Fracking is already saving the entire U.S. economy. Watch and see.
I wish they would just drop the terms “shale oil” and “oil shale. “ it creates so much confusion, even I am confused sometimes and I understand the difference,
They should just refer to it as crude oil or kerogen depending on which it is.
getting at the oil would mean strip mining most of the western half of Wyoming, as well as large sections of Colorado and Utah
You’re going to have to present some facts as to why this shale would have to be strip mined. You mine sands not shale. There have been over 3,000 wells drilled in the basin and no mining that I am aware of.
There are real concerns in dealing with the water table and other issues in the extraction process, but technology will eventually overcome these concerns.
“Fracking is already saving the entire U.S. economy. Watch and see.”
I agree, especially for natural gas production, but the wackos are doing their damnedest to shut it down.
I stand corrected on the surface mining portion of my post. I did some research on it and found that it is one of the methods of extraction for shale as well as sand formations.
I did find that in the case of Green River Basin drilling and injecting heat seems to be the method of extraction.
Short half-lives won't last long enough to trace the flow. We're talking feet per year (or maybe inches per year.
"Or some harmless chemical substance not found in nature. Then get samples of the water table water to check for the tracers presence."
Fluorocarbons. Soluble in the oil. Available in both liquid and gaseous types. Detectable at incredibly low concentrations with electron capture detectors. And harmless to the environment.
Welcome to the Mahogany Research Project
For decades, energy companies have attempted to unlock the large, domestic oil shale resources of northwestern Colorados Piceance (pronounced Pee-ance) Basin. For more than a quarter of a century, Shell has conducted laboratory and field research on its promising, In situ (in-ground) Conversion Process to recover oil and gas.
Not technological reasons, 100% due to economics. At that time, cheaper oil was available to meet demand, once the OPEC embargo had ended.
Yes, it is amazing.
However, one must consider the energy required to produce enough heat to ‘boil the oil out of rock’.
Shell carried out a small field test known as the Mahogany Demonstration Project South on its private property in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, using an in-ground heating process to recover oil and gas from the shale formation.
Field results from past research, as evident in the MDP Research Chart, have matched our predictions, giving our engineers confidence in the In situ Conversion Process.
On only a 30 x 40 foot testing area, Shell successfully recovered 1,700 barrels of high quality light oil plus associated gas from shallower, less-concentrated oil shale layers. Our research to date has demonstrated that our In situ Conversion Process (ICP) works technically on a small scale - what remains is to prove it can work commercially.
Shell will continue to set a high industry standard for public participation, environmental protection and community enhancement in an effort to ensure oil shale is done the right way.
We aim to advance the technology systematically to the point at which an application could be made to convert the 160-acre RD&D tracts to commercial leases. A commercial decision would be middle of the next decade and possibly later depending on the sequence and outcome of research activities.”
Doesn’t look like we will be producing oil there very soon.
The formation is discontinuous, lacustrine in origin, and outcrops extensively in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. "Mining" that is commonly proposed is open pit mining. Fish fossils from the Green RIver Formation are well known as well.
Granted, with the formation outcropping (at the surface), the base of a full section could be 1000 feet down, but thermal maturity in basins with ordinary heat flow is attained at roughly 9,000 ft. (or more) of burial. without magmatic involvement.
(In much of the oil industry "very deep" is in excess of 15,000 ft.)
The Green River oil is trapped in the non-interconnected pore space in the shale, and is not subjected to sufficient lithostatic pressure from overlying formations (which are relatively thin or absent for most of the areal extent of the formation) to migrate out of the shale.
That's good news and bad news.
The good part is that it is a near-surface resource if and when economical extraction methods are devised. The bad news is that even the horizontal drilling and fracking methods used in the Bakken Formation or the Marcellus Shale (for example) won't get the job done.
The Parachute, CO plant relied on cooking the oil out of mined shale. Others (Shell, iirc) have tried cooking the oil in situ and forcing it into collector wells from a central heated wellbore. Neither method has proven to be economical, both have their problems, and the EPA would be all over either process like white on rice, especially on Federal Land.
The oil is there, but we need a better way to extract it.
Since the Feds will not give commercial permits, only R&D sized permits, no we won't.
Well, takes energy just to run a drill to get down to it in the first place. Nuthin us free!
That would depend upon the price of the energy used as input and the energy output value.
What is the price difference per million BTU of Natural Gas versus light, sweet oil today?
On page 4-22 below you will find:
ICP requires energy input for heating, freeze wall construction, processing, and maintenance but still generates three to four times as much net energy as it consumes. This energy ratio is very comparable to steam injection in heavy oil projects.
But one must consider EROI when calculating whether or not it is profitable to drill/mine for energy.
EROI = Energy returned on energy invested.
If you are expending the close tot the same amount of energy to extract/process/ship the oil than the amount of energy extracted, that oil becomes unprofitable to extract ... or super expensive to buy.
Shell: Oil shale blocked
August 24, 2011
- - - - - - -
BLM plan takes heat from all directions in oil shale debate
Reprint from: The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
April 28, 2012
...The BLM issued its draft alternatives in February, laying out several options for the modification of a 2008 Bush administration plan to open to development nearly 2.5 million acres of public land containing oil shale and tar sands deposits in the three states.
Among the six alternatives, the agency favors the one that would allow research, development and demonstration activities on 553,010 acres, which it says would allow companies to further develop the technology needed to economically and responsibly exploit the resources.
That reduction frustrated Mesa County commissioners who argued production of oil from oil shale is technically and economically possible, and the plan would essentially dismantle a reasonable and rational oil shale and tar sands program.
Shell reported from their pilot plant project 3~4 times more energy returned from what was consumed.
And when you consider low cost natural gas consumed and a near light, sweet liquid petroleum returned, the economics are even better.
Not as good as energy/cost spent in the Bakken or Eagle Ford today, but profitable if permitted.
However, there is no process so simple, no balance sheet so profitable, that the inspired minions in Government cannot figure out a way to make it too difficult or too expensive to continue.
Need to stop supporting the Middle East terrorists by buying their oil. However, as long as one of them is in the WH, we’re screwed in that category.
Has the federal reserve, or the assclowns in power, mortgaged our natural resources as collateral for their massive borrowing from China?
I never suggested we should use more energy getting iy out than we profit by it.
But it might be a viable alternative. Especially since using microwaves “cooks out” the lighter, more volatile compounds and leaves the heavier, more sulfur-laden residues behind.
Thinking-outside-the-box kinda stuff.
I forgot to clarify, ICP = In-situ Conversion Process
Bump for later. Will make an excellent FB post to make some liberal’s heads spin.
A short video on fracking: http://www.northernoil.com/drilling
Very well done by Northern Oil and Gas
Fluorocarbons... I can just imagine the greenies screaming “Freon!”
Physically mining the shale and cooking the oil out in batches might be the most energy efficient thing. Heating it in place has the handicap of losing heat to its environment.
If there is a place that solar power (solar cooking in this case) would, er, shine, this might be it. Who cares if it’s “lossy” because the solar would otherwise be wasted on that barren oil shale desert anyhow.
Yes, technology will have to catch up to make it commercially viable at the larger scale.
According the report which this article references, we are not there yet.
That’s still profitable EROI, but conventional gas wells have 8-10 to one ratios. Even .5:1 would be profitable to someone if there are no other sources ... but not many could afford the end product.
All this means is that the shale oil will be more expensive when it is sold.
The "in situ" retorting process will probably always be more expensive than other oil-extraction methods and I think environmental concerns will prevent strip-mining for oil shale
You’re right but it all boils down to how one defines “technology.” I was using the word in the broad sense that shale oil extraction technology is not presently cost-competitive with other methods of oil extraction. I probably should used more specific language.
Of course. But 99.99% of "greens" are technically illiterate (and probably politically illiterate, too), and don't understand that all fluorocarbons are NOT "ozone layer unfriendly", just a select few.
But the real point is that in order to trace the movement of the oil/gas leaks, one needs a "permanent" type of marker species with unique properties not found in nature, and which can be detected in extremely tiny concentrations.
I can't think of anything else that "fits the bill" as well the fluorocarbons. Other halocarbons won't do, as it turns out that there are natural sources of many of them (chlorine, bromine, and iodine analogs).
considering that large areas of the Western US has much the same geological makeup of that seen in oil producing countries, I have always believe we were sitting on oil.
And no matter WHAT type or how clean the technology becomes available to extract it, “progressives” will always say no to coal, oil, nuclear, hydro, etc.
If a new type of solar panel was invented that would create cheap energy for the US, they’d shoot that down as well.
Geothermal is actually viable; it relies on mature tech. It can’t provide everything, however. It’s a marginal player.
Iceland runs on geo. Iceland is small.
I was there in 1948, when the initial drilling was getting underway (my step-dad was a roughneck on a wildcat rig).
I don't recall any murders at the time. But there was a lot of drinking -- there being, literally, nothing else to do. You could work in Wamsutter...and you could sleep. And you could drink. But there was no movie, no TV, no shopping, no fishing, not even any grass to mow.
I believe you’re talking about different scenarios that those which are upsetting the greenies today about fracking. They’re going around hollering “water pollution right now” about fracking sites... not “water pollution in 3000 years when the slow creep of the residual far underground fluid towards the water table has finished.” Radioiodine would suffice to show that no, the fluid has not leaked into the water table on the way past it on the way down, and no it hasn’t leaked into it as a result of acute backing-up from pressure operations down below. Once the pressure has been relieved, there is no more practical danger of such cross contamination.
“And the key word is thousands. Kerogen in nature converts to oil under sufficient pressure and temperature. There is a temperature gradient as depth increases, using present horizontal drilling and fracking technology shale oil is now being produced around the world.”
I am not sure what the temperature gradient is in the Green River area, but I have worked on well up to 24,000 ft deep in the Oklahoma Anadarko Basin and the highest temp we encountered was 260F. That is quite a bit less than the 500 or more required for kerogen conversion, but maybe it would help.
Again the shale oil that is now being produced from shales around the world was exposed to enough temperature and pressure for a long enough time to make the conversion naturally. The Green River just never quite made the grade.
If there was crude oil (not kerogen) in the Green River formation at deeper depths we would already know about it. I am not sure what the thickness of the formation is, but I am sure they have drilled though it.
Otherwise I recall it exactly like you said. Have heard though the size of the town has vastly increased as of late.
All Marathon employees lived in Rawlins at the time was there.