Just in time: shale oil use without creating carbon dioxide

From the American Chemical Society , something that will cause synapse arcing in Bill McKibben’s and Joe Romm’s brains. I guess Obama can build that Keystone XL pipeline after all. Bzzt!

Using the energy in oil shale without releasing carbon dioxide in a greenhouse world

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2011 — New technology that combines production of electricity with capture of carbon dioxide could make billions of barrels of oil shale — now regarded as off-limits because of the huge amounts of carbon dioxide released in its production — available as an energy source. That’s the topic of the latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) award-winning “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions” podcast series.

Adam Brandt, Ph.D., notes in the podcast that almost 3 trillion barrels of oil are trapped in the world’s deposits of oil-shale, a dark-colored rock laden with petroleum-like material. Brandt and colleague Hiren Mulchandani are at Stanford University.

The United States has by far the world’s largest deposits in the Green River Formation, which covers parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The domestic oil shale resource could provide 1.2 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels. But concerns over the large amounts of greenhouse gases — mainly carbon dioxide — released by current methods prevent many companies from trying to extract oil from shale.

Brandt’s answer is EPICC — a self-fueled method that generates electricity, as well as the heat needed to produce that electricity from shale. The report, which appears in ACS’ journal Energy & Fuels, describes how EPICC could generate large amounts of electricity without releasing into the atmosphere carbon dioxide from burning the shale. That carbon would be captured and stored underground as part of the production process.

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The new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from www.acs.org/globalchallenges.

Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st Century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children and improving human health. During the 2011 global celebration of the International Year of Chemistry (IYC), Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions also is focusing on the main themes of IYC — health, environment, energy and materials.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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40 Responses to Just in time: shale oil use without creating carbon dioxide

  1. PaulH says:

    Using real scientific research to develop real solutions. Is there anything better? :-)

  2. Thomas S says:

    CO2 sequestering scares me more than anything. Talk about a bomb underground just waiting to bubble up one day into low lying areas asphyxiating unsuspecting animals and people.

    I just can’t read these articles without shouting in my head “CO2 IS NOT BAD, JUST RELEASE IT ALREADY SO THE DARN MIDWEST CORN CROPS GROW THAT MUCH FASTER!”

    Ugggh.

  3. Jeff L says:

    Implicit in this methodology is we are driving electric cars (since that is a primary use for oil as a fuel) & the process generates electricity. Also implicit in this is that there are no other environmental / economic / technical concerns beyond CO2. Last I checked, that ins’t the case, but maybe those battles are worth fighting if the technical concerns are addressed by this methodology.

  4. Goldie says:

    No such thing as an environmental free lunch!

  5. Latitude says:

    Jeff L says:
    September 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Implicit in this methodology is we are driving electric cars (since that is a primary use for oil as a fuel) & the process generates electricity. Also implicit in this is that there are no other environmental / economic / technical concerns beyond CO2. Last I checked, that ins’t the case, but maybe those battles are worth fighting if the technical concerns are addressed by this methodology.
    =============================================================
    Jeff, I thought the plan was to get everyone to driving electric cars, powered by plants burning coal……then trick everyone into letting them over regulate and tax the coal industry…so the government makes more money

  6. wobble says:

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s lots of shale. Yeah, yeah, yeah, this technology doesn’t release CO2.

    But what’s the freaking technology?

    Did I miss it? Is it still a secret? Do we need to buy the report to find out? Will it be offered at night in-between infomercials for a convection oven and the secrets to buying real estate with no money down?

  7. Paul Penrose says:

    Let’s just get the oil (energy) we need and forget the stupid CSS thing.

  8. Chuck Nolan says:

    That’s what I always thought….Better living through chemistry.

  9. ChrisH says:

    Prediction: assuming this is real, deep greens will forego acknowledging that clean energy isn’t going to satisfy them after all and skip straight to a precautionary principle stranglehold.

  10. polistra says:

    There may be some confusion here. At least there was confusion in my mind until I looked it up just now!

    “Shale oil”, oil found in shale deposits, is not off limits. It’s being produced enthusiastically, and so far the EPA hasn’t done anything serious to stop it.

    The article is talking about “oil shale”, which is not crude oil at all but a petroleum precursor called kerogen. This requires many extra stages of heating and chemical processing before it can enter the usual refinery.

  11. Richard Hill says:

    Mods., There must be some error here. There doesnt seem to be any information about the process itself in the links.

    REPLY: It is a press release on Eurekalert.com I’ll see what I can find – Anthony

  12. Jeff L says:

    polistra says:
    September 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    … you are spot on – this article is about kerogen based oil shale, which is not being produced , only experimented with. The lead map in the article is mis-leading because it goes through the Bakken Oil Shale play, which is being produced, which has nothing at all to do with this new technology, whatever it may be.

  13. tom T says:

    Assuming that Bill McKibben brain has synapses is a very big assumption.

  14. Rod Gill says:

    Totally ignores the herd of elephants in the room!! 1KG of shale has less energy in it than 1KG of camel dung. Shale is simply not viable as an energy source as it takes nearly as much energy to extract as you get from it. Then add the energy costs of saving humanity from CO2 by pushing it back into the earth and the scheme will only work with massive cash injections from the poor old tax payer. Just as well I’m not a US tax payer!! ;-)

  15. Gary Hladik says:

    Presumably some energy must be siphoned off to “capture” the CO2, making the process less fuel-efficient than it would be if the CO2 were simply released. If so, why capture the CO2? Let the plant world share in the abundance of fossil fuels, too.

  16. Gail Combs says:

    HMMMMmmm that triggers memories of Mauices Strong (father of Global warming) AZL (Arizona Land and Cattle Resources), Baca ranch, and another swindle. http://windfarms.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/al-groe-and-maurice-strong-con-artists-extordinaire/

    “…In 1984, Arizona Land sold the Baca Ranch (several dozen square miles extending from Crestone to the Sand Dunes) to TOSCO — The Oil Shale Company — but two years later, he (Strong) formed American Water Development, Inc., which bought the Baca ranch from TOSCO…..”
    http://cozine.com/1995-june/additional-evidence-that-crestone-is-the-vortex/

    “…In last summer’s (2005) massive energy bill, Sen. Salazar got sensible language added to give states and communities a say in oil shale development. As much as 1.8 trillion barrels of oil shale may lie beneath Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, but past attempts to develop the resource mostly produced shattered dreams…..” http://www.thewesterner.blogspot.com/archives/2005_12_11_thewesterner_archive.html

    Tangles upon tangles… I wonder if Strong and friends still have “interests” in that area.

  17. Gary Pearse says:

    W. Stanley Jevons, a 19th C economist, predicted a calamitous coal shortage that would shut down British industry. He had no idea of oil, gas, nuclear or e even hydroelectrics. Now its peak oil (identified in The 1950s) and we have since developed the oil sands, oil shales and in recent decades, discovered enormous resources of methane hydrates on the seafloor. Peak fossil fuels would appear to have been pushed off a few hundred years. Nothing will turn off the clanging alarm. if we don’t use the hydrates they will end up in the atmosphere anyway with no benefit to us. I’m not sure about the chemistry but it seems likely erosion and oxidation of oil sands and oil shales will ultimately put them in the atmosphere too even if we don’t use them .

  18. higley7 says:

    OK, recycling the CO2 used in retrieving the shale oil is fine, as long as it does not waste energy, time, or money. If releasing the CO2 is cheaper, then it’s a go, as we need all the CO2 we can get to keep our food supply up while we cool.

  19. Roger Sowell says:

    Here’s a link to a good description. They are using a solid oxide fuel cell buried in the shale, and recycling some of the hydrocarbons produced back into the SOFC.

    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/04/epicc-20110420.html

    Major technical hurdles exist. This is far, far from reality.

  20. wobble says:

    Jeff L says:
    September 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    polistra says:
    September 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    … you are spot on – this article is about kerogen based oil shale, which is not being produced , only experimented with.

    I’m not sure this is true. I know that one of the big Independent Oil Companies (IOCs) had a successful project (I think in South America) as did a start-up in Utah. I think the start-up in Utah was using extremely shallow deposits – around 15 feet deep. Their method wasn’t very graceful, and it did seem expensive, but I think it was supposed to be profitable as long as oil stayed above $70 or something.

  21. ferd berple says:

    Thomas S says:
    September 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm
    CO2 sequestering scares me more than anything.

    I’ve heard that mixing CO2 with sunlight and trees will sequester it for a hundred years or more. Except for REDD this process would have been free.

  22. Gail Combs says:

    ferd berple says:
    September 28, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Thomas S says:
    September 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm
    CO2 sequestering scares me more than anything.

    I’ve heard that mixing CO2 with sunlight and trees will sequester it for a hundred years or more. Except for REDD this process would have been free.
    _________________________________________________________________
    NAH, the better process is CO2 + Sunlight + Hemp = Bio-diesel made at home

    There is a guy down the street who has made bio-diesel for years.

  23. Alec Rawls says:

    Carbon sequestration is political advantageous today so this technological discovery is all to the good, but in a couple of years when everyone realized that modern warm period has crested and that the real the danger is cooling, it will follow as a corollary that we should release the CO2, not bury it.

  24. safariman says:

    There’s a lot more energy contained here than in the whole Middle East! It’s a crime it hasn’t been developed.

    I worked for years on this stuff. It’s equal to tar sands, and now we’re importing about 200,000 barrels of this stuff daily from Canada. Works fine in a modern refinery!

  25. johneb says:

    This technology isn’t economically viable unless there is a high price on carbon. The warmists will love it.

  26. RACookPE1978 says:

    Hmmmn.

    Must put politically corrupt (er, correct) thinking hat on.

    Coal in ground (cheap and easy to get at) is “bad” because when burned to make (cheap and convenient) electricity above ground, the coal will release CO2 into air to allow all plants and plankton on earth to grow faster and stronger in less time.

    Oil shale in ground (difficult to get at and very expensive to process from low density rock sources) is “good” because it can be converted (with very expensive and untested technology with unproven methods) very far underground to create a little bit of (very expensive) electricity above ground while forcing the released CO2 back into the rocks (by re-pressurizing with very expensive process energy and massive pumping energy?) …..

    Exactly backasswards – as is almost all associated with today’s EPA and Washington bureacrazies: We can and should produce inexpensive electricity the most efficient way possible (by burning coal now, nuclear fission and fusion later) while reserving the underground oils and oil-derivatives for their unique chemicals progression towards plastic and transportation energy sources. Both of with oils are good for! But NOT for making electricity.

    Methinks the American Chemical Society (chartered by Congress and with (very expensive) headquarters in Washington DC!) is looking to butter up Obama’s EPA for more funding while the funding is still good.

    But skeptics are evil deniers because they are claimed to be funded by the evil oil companies.

  27. John Marshall says:

    Using real science to combat a non-existant problem is not scientific but sheer stupidity and proof that science is furthest from assessment process.

  28. Don K says:

    “polistra says:
    September 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    There may be some confusion here. At least there was confusion in my mind until I looked it up just now!

    “Shale oil”, oil found in shale deposits, is not off limits. It’s being produced enthusiastically, and so far the EPA hasn’t done anything serious to stop it.

    The article is talking about “oil shale”, which is not crude oil at all but a petroleum precursor called kerogen. This requires many extra stages of heating and chemical processing before it can enter the usual refinery.”

    =====

    Pretty much correct I believe. There are a wide variety of “oil shales”. Some are commercially exploitable using current technology — either by extracting the oil or by burning the oil while it is still in the source rock. There was some commercial oil production in Ontario in the 19th Century from a hydrocarbon rich bed in the Utica Shale.

    The Green River oil shale gets a lot of attention because there is so much of it — hydrocarbons thought to be greater than the entire oil reserves of the planet … But the energy is incredibly difficult to extract. Imagine bricks that have somehow had candle wax injected into the pores. No one really knows how to get the energy out economically. Much less what to do with the waste rock. Barring some wondrous new technology, coal is much easier to extract and — difficult as it may be to believe — probably LESS of an environmental disaster than exploiting the Green River shale oil with current technologies would be. That’s saying a lot.

  29. Disputin says:

    I know little about the extraction process for getting kerogen out of shale, but assume it takes lots of heat. Nuclear power plants produce lots of heat….

  30. More Soylent Green! says:

    ChrisH says:
    September 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm
    Prediction: assuming this is real, deep greens will forego acknowledging that clean energy isn’t going to satisfy them after all and skip straight to a precautionary principle stranglehold.

    That’s the beautiful thing about the precautionary principle — ‘Maybe the doomsday scenarios about XXXX are true, so we should just go ahead and do everything we can to make sure XXXX doesn’t happen’ — it shortcuts all discussion of the facts, dismisses a careful consideration of the risks and the trade-offs and takes you straight into environmental activism. Nobody has to think too much and they get to feel better about themselves.

  31. If AGW is a hoax (as I believe it is) then this research is pointless; on a par with discovering how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    I would guess that their process is similar to an Integrated Combined Cycle with coal gasification and CO2 sequestration. (A coal system is shown as an example of what I suspect the oil system will be like.)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_gasification_combined_cycle

    The example in the above shows a 310 mWe plant, but glosses over the fact that it will consume 50 mWe just to run the air liquefaction compressors. (How did you think they are going to separate the O2 from the N2?) Good luck handling those 2,100 Tons per Day of liquid O2. But the Ar byproduct will have some value to welding supply companies.

    (Argon constitutes 9,340 ppmv and is the third most common gas in the atmosphere. CO2, on the other hand is only 390 ppmv. However, the unintended consequence is that the sudden abundance of Ar would probably ruin the market. For example, “way back when” sulfur mines used to be profitible. Now, elemental sulfur is “free” as a waste product from oil refining, etc.
    http://folc.ca/sulphur_storage/waste_sulphur.htm)

    Having had real world experience with fossil fuel power sources, I would guess that the black box efficiency (BTU/ coal in: mWe available to the grid) of the above example is going to be on the order of 30% to 50% less than a modern coal fired plant. Plus higher capital costs and higher maintenance costs will make the $/kWhr perhaps 50% more expensive. For a hoax.

    I haven’t found the actual figures. If one of you Gentle Readers has data from the operating demonstrations, I would welcome the knowledge.

    Regards,
    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

  32. More Soylent Green! says:

    Rod Gill says:
    September 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm
    Totally ignores the herd of elephants in the room!! 1KG of shale has less energy in it than 1KG of camel dung. Shale is simply not viable as an energy source as it takes nearly as much energy to extract as you get from it. Then add the energy costs of saving humanity from CO2 by pushing it back into the earth and the scheme will only work with massive cash injections from the poor old tax payer. Just as well I’m not a US tax payer!! ;-)

    The energy companies and their shareholders will decide if this is worthwhile economically. When the politicians and bureaucrats get involved, who knows?

  33. ChE says:

    Here we go:

    Based on a modeling study, Mulchandani and Brandt found that the resulting life cycle GHG emissions from EPICC amount to ~110 g of CO2 per km, ~0.5 times those of conventional fuel cycles or ~0.33 times those from other proposed oil shale conversion processes.

    They suggest that in high carbon tax scenarios, EPICC could represent an economic improvement over traditional in situ retorting as well as an environmental improvement.

    IOW, another pipe dream that won’t work without a thumb on the scale.

  34. Michael C. Roberts says:

    I work at a facility (in the Air Program, of all places!) with numerous point sources of emissions (boilers, water heaters, landfills, etc.) that cause this facility to be a major emitter of GHG’s under the new EPA GHG Tailoring Rule. And – we must report our CO2 emission in “Carbon Equivalents” by close of busines TOMORROW September 30, 2011!!!! See the EPA website:

    http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ghgrulemaking.html

    We are not being charged emission fees (or fines) for this reporting year of 2011 – but I just thought you all would like to see, that there are reporting requirements in place – right now – in real time – for those above the emission thresholds.

    If you open the EPA website, and root around you will see the convoluted and confusing “GHG Reporting Tool” that we must use to report emissions – a Beta test that lends itself to engineers and savvy consultants but is very confusing to even us veteran “Air Heads” (read: Air Program veterans). I guess what I am trying to impart to everyone, is that this is not some future issue – IT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

    Michael C. Roberts

  35. Alan Clark of Dirty Oil-berta says:

    Rod Gill says:
    September 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Totally ignores the herd of elephants in the room!! 1KG of shale has less energy in it than 1KG of camel dung. Shale is simply not viable as an energy source as it takes nearly as much energy to extract as you get from it.

    The same was true of oilsands 30 years ago but technology has changed that. Technology will change the dynamics of oilshales too.

  36. RoHa says:

    I knew there was a reason for Canada.

  37. DonB says:

    I just had an idea. Why don’t we let the free market decide? Nah, that’ll never work in a society run by “busy bodies and do-gooders.” Sorry……

  38. kwik says:

    RoHa says:
    September 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    “I knew there was a reason for Canada.”

    Hey, RoHa, have you seen Mt. Rushmore from Canada?

    http://foomandoonian.net/post/133629601/mount-rushmore

  39. D Marshall says:

    Article title is misleading – there’s a big difference between a process that doesn’t create carbon dioxide and one that doesn’t release it.

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