Need Another Fix. Just One More Fix.
In a post last week that discussed a survey showing that Americans think we have a LOT more oil in the US than we actually do (we actually have less than 3% of total proved world oil reserves), some commenters mentioned that we have billions of barrels trapped in shale rock and therefore we have more reserves than the 3% of proved figure would indicate.
This is madness. The oil shale reserves, if you can call them that with a straight face, are not liquid. They are hydrocarbons trapped in rock. In order to turn them into liquid, you have to apply lots of heat to accelerate the reaction process that occurs over millions of years in nature.
A Denver Post article explains how low oil companies (and by extension, the American people who drive demand) are willing to go to get another massive oil fix:
Chevron scientists are working with researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to determine which chemicals work best for converting shale to crude oil.
Shell engineers are burying hundreds of steel rods 2,000 feet underground that will heat the shale to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature at which Teflon melts.
The heat will be applied for the next four years to convert the hydrocarbons from dead plants and plankton, once part of a prehistoric lake, into high-quality crude that is equal parts jet fuel, diesel and naphtha, the main ingredient in gasoline.
Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil plans to shoot particles of petroleum coke, a waste byproduct of oil refining, into cracks in the shale. The coke will be electrically charged to create a subterranean hot plate that will cook the shale until it turns into crude. The company declined to discuss the progress of its oil-shale tests.
Raytheon Co., the maker of Tomahawk missiles and the first microwave ovens, is developing a process that would use radio waves to cook the shale.
I'd love to know what type of energy input it would take to inject and then heat hundreds of steel rods deep underground for four years. Oil shale is totally unproven and appears to be completely and utterly insane. What's most disgusting though is the tone of the article. It doesn't question the logic of heating shale in situ over the course of years. It doesn't stop to ask: Is this the best option? It just wraps up with a blurb about potential ROI bla bla bla.