Skip to comments.Microwaves extract tough-to-reach oil
Posted on 09/17/2006 6:33:24 PM PDT by thackney
If oil is the gold of the modern economy, then Frank Pringle is a 21st-century alchemist.
Instead of turning base materials into gold, Pringle turns them into oil. His philosopher's stone turns out to be microwaves. Used in a vacuum chamber, the microwaves help him pull oil from tires or oil shale rock. He can turn oil as thick as molasses into free-flowing crude. And he believes he can extract much of the oil remaining in capped wells.
Geologists said about 65 percent of oil in the ground is unrecoverable with current technology because it is too thick. Deposits of tar sands in Canada, for example, contain billions of barrels of oil but require large amounts of water and energy to extract.
State environmental officials said they believe as many as 237,000 abandoned oil wells are in northwestern Pennsylvania. That is where Col. Edwin Drake drilled what is believed to be the country's first commercial oil well in Titusville, Crawford County, in 1859. Oil production in Pennsylvania peaked in 1891, and the industry moved to Texas and elsewhere.
Pringle is raising $15 million to do his first test well in the Keystone State. He has raised a few million and plans to seek more from private investors. His plan calls for putting an antenna into the old wells and blasting them with microwaves to soften and gasify the oil.
No water would be required, and he said the amount of energy used in the process, the so-called energy balance, will be economical. The process will be environmentally clean, he said.
"It has to do with the frequency, and it has to do with the vacuum," Pringle said. "That's where our patents are."
Or will be, he said. Mobilestream has begun the patent process but hasn't yet received one.
Pringle and his staff of seven scientists continue to test and refine the process at their laboratory in West Berlin, N.J. He is also conferring with Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development and Department of Environmental Protection about state financial incentives for a tire reprocessing plant he hopes to build at the former U.S. Steel site in Fairless Hills, Bucks County.
In a series of tests witnessed by a Patriot-News reporter on Aug. 31, Pringle extracted oil from shredded tires. He turned Valero slurry oil, which is pourable but thick, like cold Hershey's chocolate syrup, into lighter, useable oil. And he pulled oil from tan, slightly greasy-feeling oil shale rock from Estonia.
Not long afterward, Mobilestream announced it had successfully cracked resid oil, the heavy, tarlike substance that remains after the refining of crude oil. Tests in the company's mass spectrometer confirmed the results.
Pringle placed the substances in a beaker and set them in his vacuum chamber microwave, which looks somewhat like a home microwave but is far different. There are millions of microwave frequencies, and the key is to find the right ones for the right materials, he said.
Once the calculations are made and the microwave turned on, he sat back in a comfortable chair with his ever-present cigar. Pringle, 63, whose office contains ocean fishing rods and a military weapon collection, has been a mechanical engineer for all of his working life.
This guy should be a Freeper.
It is, interesting. One question, though. We can find/extract more oil, but it we can't refine more oil, then what?
This idea is actually closely-related to what Shell is working on for their oil shale extraction program. If they can make it economical supposedly pumped-out oilfields could become productive again. In short, the march of technology could hurt OPEC down the road.
We could nearly triple our domestic oil production and not meet the capacity of our existing refineries. But we would be refining US crude instead of crude oil that pays royalty and taxes to our enemies.
Wow! I love the possibilities.
But we still need to diversify the geography of our refining capacity. We came very close last year to having both the New Orleans and Houston refineries out due to hurricanes. Adding more gulf coast refineries doesn't do anything to diverisify against risk of natural disasters disrupting product supply.
How does the energy input compare with the oil extract?
A group has been trying to bring a refinery to fruition in Yuma for four or five years now. Latest setback was Mexico saying they could no longer guarantee oil for the refinery so it will have to be brought by pipeline and ship from Canada (and much greater cost).
That is the part I like the best.. return to refining our own oil.
Considering the amounts of fresh water needed by refineries, I don't think Arizona would be a good place for one. They are usually located on sea coasts near rivers so they can take advantage of low shipping costs and fresh water nearby.
Don't buy into all the media hype. We do need to add refining capabilities and in more than one area. But we have refining in most areas of the US.
He sounds a lot like one of my uncles.
Not a lot of detail given, but the subject was touched upon.
the amount of energy used in the process, the so-called energy balance, will be economical
|Rank||COMPANY NAME||STATE||SITE||Barrels per Calendar Day|
|1||EXXONMOBIL REFINING & SUPPLY CO||Texas||BAYTOWN||562,500|
|2||EXXONMOBIL REFINING & SUPPLY CO||Louisiana||BATON ROUGE||501,000|
|3||BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA INC||Texas||TEXAS CITY||437,000|
|4||CITGO PETROLEUM CORP||Louisiana||LAKE CHARLES||429,500|
|5||BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA INC||Indiana||WHITING||410,000|
|6||EXXONMOBIL REFINING & SUPPLY CO||Texas||BEAUMONT||348,500|
|7||SUNOCO INC (R&M)||Pennsylvania||PHILADELPHIA||335,000|
|8||DEER PARK REFINING LTD PARTNERSHIP||Texas||DEER PARK||333,700|
|9||CHEVRON USA INC||Mississippi||PASCAGOULA||330,000|
|10||CONOCOPHILLIPS COMPANY||Illinois||WOOD RIVER||306,000|
|11||Flint Hills Resources LP||Texas||CORPUS CHRISTI||288,126|
|12||Motiva Enterprises LLC||Texas||PORT ARTHUR||285,000|
|13||Flint Hills Resources LP||Minnesota||SAINT PAUL||279,300|
|14||LYONDELL CITGO REFINING CO LTD||Texas||HOUSTON||270,200|
|15||BP West Coast Products LLC||California||LOS ANGELES||260,000|
|16||CHEVRON USA INC||California||EL SEGUNDO||260,000|
|17||PREMCOR REFINING GROUP INC||Texas||PORT ARTHUR||260,000|
|18||CONOCOPHILLIPS COMPANY||Louisiana||BELLE CHASSE||247,000|
|20||MARATHON PETROLEUM CO LLC||Louisiana||GARYVILLE||245,000|
|21||CHEVRON USA INC||California||RICHMOND||242,901|
|23||EXXONMOBIL REFINING & SUPPLY CO||Illinois||JOLIET||238,500|
|24||CONOCOPHILLIPS COMPANY||New Jersey||LINDEN||238,000|
|25||Motiva Enterprises LLC||Louisiana||CONVENT||235,000|
|26||TOTAL PETROCHEMICALS INC||Texas||PORT ARTHUR||232,000|
|27||Motiva Enterprises LLC||Louisiana||NORCO||226,500|
|28||BP West Coast Products LLC||Washington||FERNDALE (CHERRY POINT)||225,000|
|29||MARATHON PETROLEUM CO LLC||Kentucky||CATLETTSBURG||222,000|
|30||VALERO REFINING CO TEXAS||Texas||TEXAS CITY||213,750|
|31||FLINT HILLS RESOURCES ALASKA LLC||Alaska||NORTH POLE||210,000|
|32||CONOCOPHILLIPS COMPANY||Oklahoma||PONCA CITY||194,000|
|33||MARATHON PETROLEUM CO LLC||Illinois||ROBINSON||192,000|
|34||Chalmette Refining LLC||Louisiana||CHALMETTE||188,160|
|35||VALERO REFINING NEW ORLEANS LLC||Louisiana||NORCO||185,003|
|37||PREMCOR REFINING GROUP INC||Delaware||DELAWARE CITY||181,500|
PREMCOR REFINING GROUP INC
|39||SUNOCO INC||Pennsylvania||MARCUS HOOK||175,000|
|40||PDV Midwest Refining LLC||Illinois||LEMONT (CHICAGO)||167,000|
|41||TESORO REFINING & MARKETING CO||California||MARTINEZ||166,000|
|43||VALERO REFINING CO NEW JERSEY||New Jersey||PAULSBORO||160,000|
|44||VALERO ENERGY CORPORATION||Texas||SUNRAY||158,327|
|45||CITGO REFINING & CHEMICAL INC||Texas||CORPUS CHRISTI||156,000|
|46||Shell Oil Products US||California||MARTINEZ||155,600|
|47||EXXONMOBIL REFINING & SUPPLY CO||California||TORRANCE||149,500|
|48||PREMCOR REFINING GROUP INC||Ohio||LIMA||146,900|
|50||Shell Oil Products US||Washington||ANACORTES||145,000|
|51||SUNOCO INC||New Jersey||WESTVILLE||145,000|
|52||VALERO REFINING CO CALIFORNIA||California||BENICIA||144,000|
|53||VALERO REFINING CO TEXAS||Texas||CORPUS CHRISTI||142,000|
|55||BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA INC||Ohio||TOLEDO||131,000|
|56||MURPHY OIL USA INC||Louisiana||MERAUX||120,000|
|57||Tesoro West Coast||Washington||ANACORTES||120,000|
|58||WESTERN REFINING COMPANY LP||Texas||EL PASO||116,000|
|59||COFFEYVILLE RESOURCES LLC||Kansas||COFFEYVILLE||112,000|
|60||FRONTIER EL DORADO REFINING CO||Kansas||EL DORADO||106,000|
|61||MARATHON PETROLEUM CO LLC||Michigan||DETROIT||100,000|
|62||PASADENA REFINING SYSTEMS INC||Texas||PASADENA||100,000|
|63||Shell Oil Products US||California||WILMINGTON||98,500|
|65||TESORO HAWAII CORP||Hawaii||KAPOLEI||93,500|
|66||VALERO ENERGY CORPORATION||Texas||THREE RIVERS||90,000|
|68||VALERO REFINING CO OKLAHOMA||Oklahoma||ARDMORE||83,640|
|69||VALERO REFINING CO TEXAS||Texas||HOUSTON||83,000|
|72||CHEVRON USA INC||New Jersey||PERTH AMBOY||80,000|
|73||Shell Chem LP||Alabama||SARALAND||80,000|
|74||VALERO REFINING CO LOUISIANA||Louisiana||KROTZ SPRINGS||80,000|
|76||NAVAJO REFINING CO||New Mexico||ARTESIA||75,000|
|77||MARATHON PETROLEUM CO LLC||Ohio||CANTON||73,000|
|78||MARATHON PETROLEUM CO LLC||Texas||TEXAS CITY||72,000|
|79||TESORO PETROLEUM CORP||Alaska||KENAI||72,000|
|80||SINCLAIR OIL CORP||Oklahoma||TULSA||70,300|
|81||LION OIL CO||Arkansas||EL DORADO||70,000|
|82||MARATHON PETROLEUM CO LLC||Minnesota||SAINT PAUL PARK||70,000|
|83||ALON USA ENERGY INC||Texas||BIG SPRING||67,000|
|84||BIG WEST OF CALIFORNIA||California||BAKERSFIELD||66,000|
|85||SINCLAIR OIL CORP||Wyoming||SINCLAIR||66,000|
|86||UNITED REFINING CO||Pennsylvania||WARREN||65,000|
|87||SUNCOR ENERGY (USA) INC||Colorado||COMMERCE CITY||62,000|
|88||EXXONMOBIL REFINING & SUPPLY CO||Montana||BILLINGS||60,000|
|89||GIANT YORKTOWN REFINING||Virginia||YORKTOWN||58,600|
|91||DELEK REFINING LTD||Texas||TYLER||58,000|
|92||Tesoro West Coast||North Dakota||MANDAN||58,000|
|93||Tesoro West Coast||Utah||SALT LAKE CITY||58,000|
|94||PLACID REFINING CO||Louisiana||PORT ALLEN||56,000|
|95||Cenex Harvest States Coop||Montana||LAUREL||55,000|
|96||Shell Chem LP||Louisiana||SAINT ROSE||55,000|
|97||CHEVRON USA INC||Hawaii||HONOLULU||54,000|
|98||WYNNEWOOD REFINING CO||Oklahoma||WYNNEWOOD||54,000|
|99||PARAMOUNT PETROLEUM CORPORATION||California||PARAMOUNT||50,000|
|100||PETRO STAR INC||Alaska||VALDEZ||48,000|
|101||FRONTIER REFINING INC||Wyoming||CHEYENNE||47,000|
|102||CHEVRON USA INC||Utah||SALT LAKE CITY||45,000|
|103||CONOCOPHILLIPS COMPANY||California||ARROYO GRANDE||44,200|
|104||CALUMET SHREVEPORT LLC||Louisiana||SHREVEPORT||42,000|
|105||US OIL & REFINING CO||Washington||TACOMA||37,850|
|106||HUNT REFINING CO||Alabama||TUSCALOOSA||34,500|
|107||MURPHY OIL USA INC||Wisconsin||SUPERIOR||34,300|
|108||CITGO ASPHALT REFINING CO||New Jersey||PAULSBORO||32,000|
|110||CALCASIEU REFINING CO||Louisiana||LAKE CHARLES||30,000|
|111||BIG WEST OIL CO||Utah||NORTH SALT LAKE||29,400|
|112||CITGO ASPHALT REFINING CO||Georgia||SAVANNAH||28,000|
|113||EDGINGTON OIL CO INC||California||LONG BEACH||26,000|
|114||KERN OIL & REFINING CO||California||BAKERSFIELD||26,000|
|115||HOLLY CORP REFINING & MARKETING||Utah||WOODS CROSS||24,700|
|116||LITTLE AMERICA REFINING CO||Wyoming||EVANSVILLE (CASPER)||24,500|
|117||COUNTRYMARK COOPERATIVE INC||Indiana||MOUNT VERNON||23,000|
|118||ERGON REFINING INC||Mississippi||VICKSBURG||23,000|
|119||GIANT REFINING CO||New Mexico||GALLUP||20,800|
|120||ERGON WEST VIRGINIA INC||West Virginia||NEWELL (CONGO)||20,000|
|121||PETRO STAR INC||Alaska||NORTH POLE||17,000|
|122||GIANT INDUSTRIES INC||New Mexico||BLOOMFIELD||16,800|
|123||GULF ATLANTIC OPERATIONS LLC||Alabama||MOBILE||16,700|
|124||SAN JOAQUIN REFINING CO INC||California||BAKERSFIELD||15,000|
|125||CONOCOPHILLIPS ALASKA INC||Alaska||KUPARUK||14,000|
|126||CALUMET LUBRICANTS CO LP||Louisiana||COTTON VALLEY||13,020|
|127||BP EXPLORATION ALASKA INC||Alaska||PRUDHOE BAY||12,500|
|128||WYOMING REFINING CO||Wyoming||NEWCASTLE||12,500|
|129||AGE REFINING INC||Texas||SAN ANTONIO||12,200|
|130||HUNT SOUTHLAND REFINING CO||Mississippi||SANDERSVILLE||11,000|
|131||Silver Eagle Refining||Utah||WOODS CROSS||10,250|
|132||AMERICAN REFINING GROUP INC||Pennsylvania||BRADFORD||10,000|
|133||Greka Energy||California||SANTA MARIA||9,500|
|134||LUNDAY THAGARD CO||California||SOUTH GATE||8,500|
|135||CALUMET LUBRICANTS CO LP||Louisiana||PRINCETON||8,300|
|136||MONTANA REFINING CO||Montana||GREAT FALLS||8,200|
|137||CROSS OIL REFINING & MARKETING INC||Arkansas||SMACKOVER||7,200|
|138||VALERO REFINING CO CALIFORNIA||California||WILMINGTON||6,200|
|139||HUNT SOUTHLAND REFINING CO||Mississippi||LUMBERTON||5,800|
|140||SOMERSET REFINERY INC||Kentucky||SOMERSET||5,500|
|141||GOODWAY REFINING LLC||Alabama||ATMORE||4,100|
|142||Silver Eagle Refining||Wyoming||EVANSTON||3,000|
|144||FORELAND REFINING CORP||Nevada||EAGLE SPRINGS||2,000|
Source: Refinery Capacity Data by individual refinery as of January 1, 2006
Just in case... ;)
Frequency I understand, and vacuum in a laboratory is no problem, but how do you pull a vacuum (how much of a vacuum?) in an underground area the size of an oil well ?