Day By Day

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Oil Shale Excitement

The Rocky Mountain News reports:

Eight U.S. companies have filed applications with the federal government to lease land in Colorado for oil-shale development, a sign that oil producers again are ready to gamble some 23 years after the last boom went bust.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the arm of the Interior Department that manages federal lands, has received 10 drilling applications, including three from Shell and one each from Exxon Mobil and Chevron. The companies want to develop technologies to extract oil from shale on 160-acre federal tracts in Rio Blanco County in northwestern Colorado.

Read it here.

As the article notes, this is not the first burst of enthusiasm for shale oil. The last one coincided with the seventies "oil shock" and ended badly. There has been a lot of excitement in the press and on the blogosphere regarding the seemingly unlimited energy resources here in the US and many have suggested that this would prove to be a feasible alternative to Middle East imports. But things are not that simple.

Mark in Mexico notes that the technical and environmental obstacles to mining oil shale and extracting usable products from it are staggering. The excitement in the popular press is therefore way..., way..., premature. The most promising technology, being developed by Shell, is still in an early stage of development. There is no quick fix that will end our energy dependence on Middle Eastern Oil in the near future. Fortunately, the grownups in the White House understand this, even if the press does not.

Read it here.

Interesting factoid. Oil Shale, the leading technical journal dealing with this subject is published in..., tada! ...Estonia [but then you already knew that, didn't you?] Here's their website.

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