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.
And of course it has DIRTY OIL.
The instant, that the progressive tools can take control of energy production, they will be pumpin’ oil like nobody’s business.
Again, Obama is caught lying to the public when he said, "we use a quarter of the world's oil, but only have 2% of the world's oil reserves".
A lot of ill informed if well meaning souls are screaming that fracking causes water pollution.
Fortunately it would seem rather easy to put that worry to rest. Tag the fracking liquid with short lived radioactive tracers, like the same kind of radioiodine used in medical procedures. Or some harmless chemical substance not found in nature. Then get samples of the water table water to check for the tracers’ presence. This doesn’t have to be done to every single well, just a randomized statistical sample of them. It ought to prove to be a definite non problem, with no water getting contaminated at all.
We have an insane government that is self serving to its very core both one and all and I fear things are going to go from bad to worst. The country is looking more and more like Germany in 1935 and if something isn’t done the citizens of this Republic are going to pay a terrible price.
My terrible price came the day he was elected. No lie, that’s the week they laid us off at my ten-yr job.
unemp since, but going to school full-time on a pell grant, work part-time whenever I can find something.
Not used to being poor. But have always been conservative.
Not sure this is all what it is touted to be. I dont think fracking can get to this oil as it is locked into the rock in a semicoal like state. It will have to be extracted like the tar sands in Canada by cooking it out of the rock using huge amts of water and energy.
Much of it is on private land. If it was economically viable why hasnt it been done yet?
It doesn’t matter to the liberals what reserves we have.
We have to stop the rising of the oceans, and allow the planet to heal. As Obama might say..................
We have to use wind and solar and ocean waves and bio fuels and geo thermal. Anything but evil nuclear and evil fossil fuels.
Remember, the liberal view is that fossil fuels are evil. And, Obama is on record as saying Republicans want dirty air and dirty water.
And I thought the only way to get the oil was to cook it.
Q: How does One Know when Obama is LYING.
A: HIS LIPS ARE MOVING !!!
“We knew about the Oil Shale...how to get it is the issue....”
Exactly this. At the present time, getting at the oil would mean strip mining most of the western half of Wyoming, as well as large sections of Colorado and Utah. I don’t think the public at large will go for that, let alone the populations of those states, no matter how many jobs it brings. And processing the shale to produce oil would take tremendous amounts of water in the already arid west. We make fun of the enviros on FR, but they have a point when it comes to Shale.
Technology will eventually exist that allows us to get to this oil. It doesn’t yet.
Oil shale isn't oil sand, as in Canada, or the type of oil that can be recovered by fracking. It requires a heating process called retorting that takes several years for oil in a designated spot to be released from the rock in a form that can be recovered. It's electricity-intensive and the Greenies will have a field day opposing it. Unless we elect an administration that will kill off the EPA or at least get rid of the zealots that run it, shale oil is just a dream.
Technology will eventually exist that allows us to get to this oil. It doesnt yet.
Apparently, that technology already exists.
As I recall, the current technology involves drilling 2,000 ft into the strata, heating the shale and "sweating" the kerogen out of it, then pumping the kerogen out. No need to "strip mine" the western half of Wyoming.
Which is, by the way, a pretty bleak area (speaking as one who once spent a summer in Wamsutter).
Soon to be a new national park while the only other large deposit is owned by the presidents main campaign contributor.
(or was that clinton?-lol)
Correct! They hate our military until it becomes their military. They hate our natural resources until it becomes theirs. They care emensely about the poor until they take power. Then they will happily murder millions of us to eliminate any possible opposition to them.
“Bleak” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just because it’s not lush green as those areas east of the Missouri River, the vast vistas are beautiful in their own right.
By the way, the amount of water needed to get the shale oil out doesn’t readily exist unless you want to ship in really big chunks of Arctic ice!
Being from Oklahoma -- the home of miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles -- I quite agree.
But, I suspect, most would consider Western Wyoming "bleak".
Don't forget, much of the continental shelf off the eastern and west coasts of the continental USA has yet to be touched by any oil rig--and geologists estimate there may be HUGE reserves of oil sitting there. And that's not including the continental shelves off the coasts of other continents, and the fact most of Siberia has yet to be explored for oil and natural gas reserves. And finally, developments in growing oil-laden algae on a huge scale could make it a base to make all known motor fuels.
In short, the whole idea of Peak Oil--which has been pronounced as far back as 1911--is total baloney.
And I thought the only way to get the oil was to cook it.
Pretty much. It is locked in a near or at surface shale, too shallow to frac and with no overburden pressure to force it into a reservoir. Much of the Book Cliffs area has exposures of the Green River Shale.
As an aside, the US Govt. tried freeing the hydrocarbons a few decades back with a small nuclear device. That didn't produce the desired results. There was also a pilot project to cook the oil out of the mined shale at Parachute, CO, (UNOCAL, I think). It shud down in the '80s when the price of oil crashed, and would likely be EPA'd out of existence today.
Reading the actual report, there are ‘challenges’
“Uncertainty about viable technologies. A significant challenge to the development of oil shale lies in the uncertainty surrounding the viability of current technologies to economically extract oil from oil shale.
To extract the oil, the rock needs to be heated to very high temperaturesranging from about 650 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a process known as retorting. Retorting can be accomplished primarily by two methods. One method involves mining the oil shale, bringing it to the surface, and heating it in a vessel known as a retort.
Mining oil shale and retorting it has been demonstrated in the United States and is currently done to a limited extent in Estonia, China, and Brazil. However, a commercial mining operation with surface retorts has never been developed in the United States because the oil it produces competes directly with conventional crude oil, which historically has been less expensive to produce.
The other method, known as an in-situ process, involves drilling holes into the oil shale, inserting heaters to heat the rock, and then collecting the oil as it is freed from the rock. Some in-situ technologies have been demonstrated on very small scales, but other technologies have yet to be proven, and none has been shown to be economically or environmentally viable at a commercial scale. According to some energy experts, the key to developing our countrys oil shale is the development of an in-situ process because most of the richest oil shale is buried beneath hundreds to thousands of feet of rock, making mining difficult or impossible.
In addition to these uncertainties, transporting the oil produced from oil shale to refineries may pose challenges because pipelines and major highways are not prolific in
the remote areas where the oil shale is located, and the large-scale”
Nothing, until we get a Republican President and a reasonably conservative to moderate Congress.
Peak oil is not about the amount of oil as much as it is about the cost of procuring it. There will always be oil, but many will be priced on of access to it and it’s products .... unlike the boom years.
Obama? No. It's the new technology of fracking and the boom of new energy found on private lands.
Remove Obama, and the liberals in Congress, and we could potentially be a net exporter by 2040, or sooner.
Reading the actual report, the oil is buried very deep, not at the surface.
Sarah Palin for Energy Secretary in a Romney administration.
Where were these "bipartisan NIMBYs" when the Powder River Basin became the world's largest strip mine?
The actual good news is here:
I saw a guy on TV once who had this medium sized box, like a breadbox, with a spigot on it.
He put a rock in the box, a beaker under the spigot, and turned it on - a few minutes later, the beaker was half filled with fairly clean oil.
It was a modded microwave - it literally boils the oil out of the rocks without actually heating the shale.
It is not really crude oil, but a substance that can be converted to oil called kerogen. The cost in both money and energy are excessive as I discussed in this thread yesterday.
Many confuse it with the shale oil being produced in North Dakota and Montana. They are not even close to being the same.
Up to one half or more of it is presently recoverable using horizontal drilling and fracking technology. But one problem, almost all of it lies under federal land. IMO, we can kiss it off, for no way will the *^%$#&@! asshats in congress and this administration allow it to be developed.
Horizontal drilling and fracking will not work for the Green River formation.
From the report:
“ Uncertainty about viable technologies. A significant challenge to the development of oil shale lies in the uncertainty surrounding the viability of current technologies to economically extract oil from oil shale. To extract the oil, the rock needs to be heated to very high temperaturesranging from about 650 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a process known as retorting. Retorting can be accomplished primarily by two methods. One method involves mining the oil shale, bringing it to the surface, and heating it in a vessel known as a retort. Mining oil shale and retorting it has been demonstrated in the United States and is currently done to a limited extent in Estonia, China, and Brazil. However, a commercial mining operation with surface retorts has never been developed in the United States because the oil it produces competes directly with conventional crude oil, which historically has been less expensive to produce. The other method, known as an in-situ process, involves drilling holes into the oil shale, inserting heaters to heat the rock, and then collecting the oil as it is freed from the rock. Some in-situ technologies have been demonstrated on very small scales, but other technologies have yet to be proven, and none has been shown to be economically or environmentally viable at a commercial scale. According to some energy experts, the key to developing our countrys oil shale is the development of an in-situ process because most of the richest oil shale is buried beneath hundreds to thousands of feet of rock, making mining difficult or impossible. In addition to these uncertainties, transporting the oil produced from oil shale to refineries may pose challenges because pipelines and major highways are not prolific in the remote areas where the oil shale is located, and the large-scale infrastructure that would be needed to supply power to heat the oil shale is lacking.”
Yep, they are invested in solar panels and wind turbines.
It did not fail for that reason, it was strictly economics. The Parachute CO project was going full blast ahead when oil was around $40.00 a bbl. IMO the project scared the living hell out of OPEC, the price of oil dropped to around $9.00 bbl. Blam and damn, oil shale was no longer profitably viable, end of story.
Shell always said it was commercial if the price of oil got above $50 a barrel. When it went well above that, Shell started tooling up to expand their pilot operation. Thats when the government shut them down.
If there is no way for it to be commercial, then no need for the government to shut them down.
In Utah a consortium of investors were developing an operation on private land, and the government shut that down too.
The politician who took charge of shutting it down was O’s pick to head up the Department of the Interior. So thats where that stands.
There are other countries going after their oil shale, Brazil, Argentina, Jordan signed a $20 billion dollar contract with Shell to develop theirs. For what its worth, Estonia generates 100% of its electricity burning oil shale like coal. The waste goes on their road beds.
The problem is that it has to be commercially viable, that is it has to compete with the price of oil from other sources. If it costs $200 per barrel to produce and the current oil price is $100 you can only lose money by doing it becuse no one will be standing in line to buy your $200 oil.
I am in the oil business and I know plenty of places that I could go drill a well, be it a very low volume, and produce it at a $200 per barrel cost, but I am sane.
Maybe someday when all the oil from other sources is gone it will work.
“Shell always said it was commercial if the price of oil got above $50 a barrel”
Historically because the price of energy and other costs have gone up with the price of oil the costs to produce kerogen have gone up with it so it is a moving target. I don’t know what the current cost would be, but I am quite sure it is way above $50.
As one well known geologist once said, “ oil shale is the oil of the future and aways will be. “
It was only a couple of years ago. The price was above $75 or $80 at the time.
I agree with your remark that the $50 is a moving target. But, again, if it can never be commercially viable, no need to shut it down legally. I notice driving through the area a lot of drilling rigs. I assume they are exploring, to nail down exactly where the deposits are. In the current political climate, its a dead issue. But someone is doing a lot of exploring.
Ah, Wamsutter, WY, land of the Red Desert and Continental Divide. I spent six years (1980-86) there as a Marathon Oil Co supervisor, before getting transferred to Bakersfield, CA.
There were more murders in the tiny town during that six years than I can recall. When I first got there, all the pumpers were carrying weapons in the company vehicles, which I decided to stop. Within just a few weeks, I ate crow and told the pumpers they could get their guns back in the co. trucks.
Sweetwater County sheriffs dept. told me that stretch of I-80 was the most dangerous piece of highway in the nation, said the prairie around there was full of unmarked graves. In winter when the lease roads would often drift shut, one pumper would take a ridge route to reach some wells. He remarked one day that he had hit a bump he never had before, spring revealed he had been driving over a body for most of the winter. The sheep herder who found the body was Basque and spoke no English, he was half insane trying to describe what he had found.
Happiness for me was seeing Wamsutter in the rear view mirror the day got transferred.
The shale oil there is actually kerogen sediment. (does kerosene link ring a bell?)
Kerosene was first retorted from kerogen in the mid 1800’s from deposits in New Brusnwick, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
There are other conventional oil and gas producing formations in the area and that is probably the explaination for most of the drilling activity you are seeing although some may be wells just to tie down the exact dimensions of the Green River Formation.
I am not familiar with the geology of the area, but as in all oil producing areas there are layers of different types of sedimentary rock on top of each other, some containing commercial quanities of oil and gas and some not. The Green River formation is just one of the layers.
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.
If in-situ heat was introduced at depths where the richest deposits are located and temperatures are already moderately high. It would not take that much to artificially tip the scales and create the process.
At the present time, getting at the oil would mean strip mining most of the western half of Wyoming, as well as large sections of Colorado and Utah.
No strip mining needed. Oil bearing rock is first melted underground to make it liquid and then piped to the surface.The process of doing this is called insitu. Its also relatively cheap.
In 2005, Royal Dutch Shell announced that its in-situ process could become competitive for oil prices over $30 per barrel ($190/m3). A 2004 report by the United States Department of Energy stated that both the Shell technology and technology used in the Stuart Oil Shale Project could be competitive at prices above $25 per barrel, and that the Viru Keemia Grupp expected full-scale production to be economical at prices above $18 per barrel ($130/m3).