Posts tagged “oil shale”
I, along with my editor Sam Avro, recently conducted a broad-ranging interview with John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil and currently the head of Citizens for Affordable Energy, a non-profit group whose aim is to promote sound U.S. energy security solutions for the nation. Previous interviews with Mr. Hofmeister were:
In the current and final installment, he discusses the technical feasibility of producing oil from kerogen.
Shale Oil and Oil Shale
Although the oil coming from the Bakken Shale Formation in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas is commonly referred to as shale oil, it is properly called “tight oil.” The term shale oil has been used historically to refer to oil that is produced from kerogen, but “shale oil” is often improperly used synonymously with the oil produced from tight oil formations.
Since 2005, the “total oil supply” for the United States as reported by the Energy Information Administration increased by 2.2 million barrels per day. Of this, 1.3 mb/d, or 60%, has come from natural gas liquids and biofuels, which really shouldn’t be added to conventional crude production for purposes of calculating the available supply. Of the 800,000 b/d increase in actual field production of crude oil, almost all of the gain has come from shale and other tight formations that horizontal fracturing methods have only recently opened up. Here I offer some thoughts on how these new production methods change the overall outlook for U.S. oil production.
Let me begin by clarifying that “shale oil” and “oil shale” refer to two completely different resources. “Oil shale” is in fact not shale and does not contain oil, but is instead a rock that at great monetary and environmental cost can yield organic compounds that could eventually be made into oil. Although some people have long been optimistic about the potential amount of energy available in U.S. oil-shale deposits, I personally am pessimistic that oil shale will ever be a significant energy source.
I am traveling some over the next two weeks, and did not have a chance to record my weekly video segment this week. However, last Friday I was a guest on Alan Colmes’ show on Fox News Radio, so I will share that this week instead. I had been a guest on his show last month to discuss whether President Obama bears responsibility for high gas prices.
As I said then, gas prices are outside the control of a sitting U.S. president. As an aside, gas prices appear to have peaked for now and are on the way down. Does anyone who blamed Obama for higher prices think he is responsible for bringing them back down? That is in fact a dangerous issue to campaign on, because if gasoline prices fall between now and the election — and you have made a big deal out of how they are the President’s responsibility — guess what? President Obama now takes credit for falling gas prices.
Anyway, I am drifting off topic here. On his show, Alan and I discussed my new book Power Plays. Some of the topics we discussed were:
- What peak oil means
- The role of speculators in the oil market
- Why I am skeptical that we will address rising carbon emissions
- Whether methane hydrates are a viable alternative energy source
- The difference between our oil shale resource and oil reserves
- Which alternative fuels are promising
The Difference Between Oil Shale and Oil from Shale Formations
There has been some confusion lately about the overall extent of U.S. oil reserves. Some claim that the U.S. has hundreds of billions or even trillions of barrels of oil waiting to be produced if the Obama Administration will simply stop blocking development. So, I thought it might be a good idea to elaborate somewhat on the issue.
Oil production has been increasing in the U.S., primarily driven by expanding production from the Bakken Shale Formation in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas. The oil that is being produced from these shale formations is sometimes improperly referred to as shale oil. When politicians speak of hundreds of billions or trillions of barrels of U.S. oil, they are most likely talking about the oil shale in the Green River Formation in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Some have assumed that since we are accessing the shale in North Dakota and Texas, the Green River Formation and its roughly 2 trillion barrels of oil resources will be developed next. But these are very different types of resources. CONTINUE»
Just a note that this weekend I leave for an extended business trip, with visits to Seattle, Washington D.C., Germany, Massachusetts, Vermont, and California. I will be on the road for about four weeks, but will try to keep to my schedule of posting new columns on Mondays and Thursdays. Next Monday I will have a story up on Virent’s progress in producing gasoline from biomass, and following that I have a number of stories and guest posts to choose from. I was recently asked to participate in an energy roundtable at Focus on China’s Energy Future and the Shale Gas Question. It is no secret that I feel that China’s moves stand to continue sending shock waves through the… Continue»
I have been pretty skeptical of the potential of oil shale for a long time. It is very difficult for me to see how they are going to make a go of it, and I wrote as much here: “Oil Shale Development Imminent” And: Oil Shale = Cellulosic Ethanol In those essays, I was primarily focused on the energy required to run the process, and I talked about Shell’s unique shale process. However, as I was passing through the Denver Airport on Sunday (actually, I ended up spending the whole day there!) – I spotted this story in the Denver Post: Shell makes run on water Shale country tends to be dry country, and Shell’s process uses a lot of… Continue»
As a reader pointed out, oil shale is in the news again: Oil shale may finally have its moment In a nutshell, ICP works like this: Shell drills 1,800-foot wells and into them inserts heating rods that raise the temperature of the oil shale to 650 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep the oil from escaping into the ground water, the heater wells are ringed by freeze walls created by coolant piped deep into the ground; this freezes the rock and water on the perimeter of the drill site. Eventually the heat begins to transform the kerogen (the fossil fuel embedded in the shale) into oil and natural gas. After the natural gas is separated, the oil is piped to a refinery… Continue»
One thing that I have noted so far about living in the U.K. is that the general attitude toward oil and gas companies seems to be different than in the U.S. Despite the fact that oil and gas is crucial to modern daily life, oil companies are largely reviled in the U.S. The public simply hates us, even though they would have a tough time getting along without us. Perhaps it is because I am in the oil capital of Europe, Aberdeen, that the attitude is more accepting. Or perhaps it is because the government, not the oil companies, reap most of the benefit of high gas prices here (and that the public has lived with high prices for a… Continue»
Update: 6-21-06 This essay has now been posted to The Oil Drum, and there is an active discussion taking place there. I have recently noticed an increase in oil shale coverage in the media, so this seems like a good time to take a look at the potential for oil shale to meet a portion of our energy wants (as opposed to “needs”). First, what is oil shale? Wikipedia has a nice overview on oil shale here. Briefly, oil shale started off just like the plant material that was ultimately converted into oil, but the material was not subjected to high enough temperatures and pressures to convert it completely to oil. But it is feasible to complete the process that… Continue»