Friday, April 08, 2005

Shell Oil hopes to begin shale oil production by 2010

Shell Oil hopes to begin shale oil production by 2010

MEEKER, Colo. — With crude oil topping $50 a barrel more than 20 years
after the oil shale bust of the 1980s, Shell Oil Co. is testing a new
technology it hopes will make extracting oil from rock beneath
northwestern Colorado profitable and environmentally sustainable.

Oh, God, Cathedral Bluffs!

I spent the better part of 1980-1983 driving and walking Cathedral Bluffs, documenting the Department of Energy's failed In-Situ Oil Retorting experiments. They spent millions of dollars to learn that it takes far more energy to extract kerogen (there's NO oil in oil shale) from the basement rock than can be gained from burning the resulting petroleum-like product.

EROEI is negative for Oil Shale.


Shell executives think they can make a quick buck in investment returns from their woopdy-doo rock heaters.

Let me tell you about Cathedral Bluffs. It's way the Hell Back of Beyond. You need a four-wheel drive vehicle just to get to the "Main Road!" Then you drive for an hour and a half to get to the actual sites. You need helicopters to get equipment and supplies in and out of these places. Big helicopters. Expensive helicopters. Helicopters that swallow av-gas in Niagara Falls quantities.

Now tell me, where is all the energy coming from to drill these wells, create all this heat, extract the gas and kerogen and transport it to refining and processing facilities? This isn't downtown Grand Junction, for Crush Sakes, this is as far out in the boonies as anyone can get.

I once took a New York City journalist with me on one of my site visits. Picked him up at the Grand Junction airport and drove him in to an oil shale site on Cathedral Bluffs. By the time we arrived on site three hours later, he was convinced we were totally lost and we were going to die of starvation out in the wilderness. He was almost literally scared shitless by the immensity of that country.

Shell and every other energy company is making their final economic move before the petroleum door slams shut with a resounding DOOM! They know they can't get any meaningful amount of energy from oil shale. But they can manipulate the economy to squeeze out the last dollars from the shale before moving on to other things, say, recycling SUVs into affordable housing.

Oil Shale? Forget about it, write it off, pay it no heed: it's a non-starter. Tar sands? Best for making roads.

At some point, "we" must admit that we're fucked. We've gotten drunk on the smell of someone else's cork and now the bottle's empty. Too bad; that's just the way it is. We'll just have to get by on less, the best we can. The energy chickens have come home to roost, the party's over, it's pay-up time and the billfold's damned near empty.

Hey, things are looking up!

Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate

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