|Fossils encased in an Estonian oil shale.
Credit: Mark A. Wilson, Wikipedia Commons
in Canada and Turkey report discovery of a new process for economically
tapping vast resources of crude oil in the United States, Canada, and
other countries now locked away in rocky deposits called oil shale. The
process could boost worldwide oil supplies in the future and lead to
lower prices for gasoline, diesel, and home heating oil, the
researchers suggest. Their study is scheduled for the November 19 issue
of ACS’ Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly journal.
In the study, Tayfun Babadagli and colleagues point out that oil
trapped in the world’s oil shale deposits exceeds the proven reserves
of Saudi Arabia. An estimated one trillion barrels of oil, for
instance, are in the so-called Green River Formation in Colorado, Utah,
and Wyoming. However, existing technology for recovering that oil,
termed pyrolysis, is uneconomical because it requires high
temperatures (about 900 degrees F.) and large energy inputs, but yields
little usable oil.
The scientists describe laboratory scale experiments in which addition
of inexpensive iron powder to oil shale, combined with heating with
electric heating coils, substantially increased oil production — by
more than 100 percent for some shales. “The experimental and numerical
results show that field-scale oil recovery from oil shales by
electrical heating could be technically and economically viable,” the
report concludes. — MTS
News release from The American Chemical Society on September 17, 2008.