Above ground Shale Oil production uses loads of water.
In ground oil shale production. Lots of energy is injected into the ground to liquify the kerogen. Electrical energy is often used - Big Power Lines!
Oil Shale Reserves and Electric Vehicles
One of the main factors influencing market sales of electric vehicles is the price of oil.
As peak oil kicks in, people will look for replacements. One of the first places to look
in the vast shale oil reserves in the US and abroad.
Oil shale reserves are plentiful at some 600 locations worldwide. Most reserves are
concentrated in the USA. Getting oil shale out of the ground is not easy, cheap, or clean.
Many companies are working overtime to improve techniques for wringing oil from shale oil reservoirs. There are fortunes to be made. Many people anxiously await the results.
Oil Shale vs Shale Oil
Shale oil is a generic name for the oil like substance called Kerogen locked up in
fine-grained sedimentary rocks...not always shale. The kerogen is converted into
petroleum liquids, natural gas liquids, and methane by heating the rocks.
Most of the oil shale reserves are located in Northwest Colorado, Northeast Utah, and Southwest Wyoming. Colorado contains the most.
Shale Oil is oil produced from produced from shale formations like the Bakken Formation, or the more traditional meaning of oil tightly locked up in sedimentary rocks. Shale oil plays are big in North and South Dakota, Texas, and the Marcellus Shale of Appalachia and Haynesville Shale of Louisiana.
Reserves of Oil Shale
The estimated reserves of in-place oil shale are huge. According to the EIA, the column of productive could be 1,000 feet thick (3 football fields), and could produce up to 1,000,000 gallons or 23,800 barrels per acre.
All told, over 2 trillion barrels of potentially recoverable oil exist in the three states area. This includes all reserves from lower to higher concentrations. The three states contain an estimated 800 million barrels of recoverable petroleum liquids.
Oil Shale Water Use
Above ground processing of shale oil uses up to 5 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced. Processing shale oil in the ground uses less, about 1/10 as much.
How much water is that? For above ground processing, the NRDC reports that 1.55 million barrels of oil would take some 360,000 acre feet of water! That by the way is a lot of water. It is 1.5 times the annual water use of Denver, Colorado. This by the way is a middle of the road estimate.
The impact on Agriculture is greater. It just happens that oil companies tend to own senior water rights along major rivers like the Colorado. Much of the food produced in the western US depends on this water. So, you can have your oil, but not your food. Maybe the oil will be used to import food from other countries.
Oil Shale Climate Impacts and Disposal
Two other wide scale impacts of shale oil development are increased emissions to the air. The emissions contain air pollution, and greenhouse gasses.
Above ground processing has been going on for some time in Estonia. Shale oil mining there creates around 3/4 ton of waste for every ton processed. This ton contains a mix of heavy metals, and toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. This mix also has the possibility of self-igniting!
In Ground Processing
Looking at the impacts of above ground processing, it appears best to use in-ground processing. This method adds energy to the shale, warming it and causing the keragen to flow to a well bore where it is pumped out like any well.
Turning loose kerogen to flow means that it can also make its way to in ground water aquifers. This in turn poisons the aquifer for a very long time. One way to constrain the kerogen is by literally freezing the ground around the shale oil reservoir. Shell Oil is experimenting.
The Bottom Line
In our view, as the price of oil increases, so do the chances for large scale shale oil development. The public appears slow to adopt alternative transport. Industry stands to make incredible profits as the price per barrel increases. Government subsidies will likely continue to support oil company growth. At some point, environmental conditions will become uncomfortably apparent.
We advocate walking, biking, eBiking, taking transit, and driving electric vehicles now.
Oil in rock is called shale oil. Once released, it is called Kerogen.
Kerogen is processed in above ground plants or in ground.