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Canadian Oil Sands Production Update

Khebab, The Oil Drum:Canada
…In summary, we can see that most forecasts are in agreement with each other and are predicting a doubling of the current production within 6 years. However, we can observe than the older forecasts have a tendency to be a little bit over optimistic and have been revised downward afterward (see for instance EUB-2006 and EUB-2004).

This is a first draft and there is a lot of work to do. Many important aspects have not been addressed here, for instance: 1) How the decline in conventional oil production will affect the total Canadian production; 2) How domestic demand will evolve; 3) The dependence on Natural Gas. I will attempt to explore these different problems in my future posts.
(30 Oct 2006)

Gargantuan destruction
Pace of oilsands development leaves mark on our economy and planet

Bill Kaufmann, Calgary Sun
It’s a badge of economic success — or excess — that can be seen from space.

The gargantuan development of Alberta’s oilsands is visible from beyond the ozone layer and promises to be more apparent as the planet’s insatiable thirst for its bounty increases, says Dan Woynillowicz of the environment watchdog Pembina Institute.

“One of the most alarming things the UN has documented is the sheer footprint of the oilsands,” says Woynillowicz.

He says 3,000 sq. km of territory in northern Alberta has now been leased by industry.

“We’re leading the country economically but it’s coming at a very significant environmental cost,” says Woynillowicz.
(29 Oct 2006)

Coaxing oil from huge U.S. shale deposits

Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle
Underneath the high, scrub-covered rangeland of northwest Colorado is the world’s biggest oil field. Getting the oil out of the ground, however, is one of the world’s biggest headaches.

The area’s deposits of oil shale are believed to be larger than all the oil reserves of the Middle East. But past attempts to get at this oil locked in tarry rock have cost billions of dollars and raised the prospect of strip-mining large areas of the Rocky Mountain West.

Now, as the federal government makes another push to develop oil shale, Shell and other companies say they have developed techniques that may extract this treasure with much less environmental impact.

Shell’s project is stunningly complex. Instead of strip-mining the rock and then processing it, Shell plans to superheat huge underground areas for several years, gradually percolating oil out of the stone and pumping it to the surface.

…At each production site, the powerful heaters extend down hundreds of feet, stretching vertically through a cylindrical area of shale about 100 feet in diameter. They then heat the area to about 700 degrees Fahrenheit — for two to three years.

…Under in situ methods, the report said, each 100,000 barrels produced daily would require about 1.2 gigawatts of electric-generating capacity — the size of Colorado’s largest power plant, a coal-fired facility in nearby Craig. The Energy Department has forecast oil-shale production of 2 million barrels a day by 2020 and eventually 10 million barrels a day.
(6 Sept 2006)
Very good overview of the troubled history and current status of oil shale development, although it neglects to mention Shell’s ‘freeze wall’ (see below). -AF

Shell is going to the wall for oil

Steve Raabe, Denver Post
The company is spending $30 million to make a huge underground “freeze wall” to safeguard oil-shale reserves in the region.
… Shell already has figured out how to melt kerogen – the oil-like substance – from underground shale deposits with electric heaters to produce oil from one of the world’s largest potential petroleum sources.

…Eager to tap into that possibility, Shell is spending $30 million to create and test a massive “freeze wall” that would extend from the surface to 1,700 feet below the ground. The walls would be 30 feet thick in a shape 300 feet wide by 350 feet long.

…A crew of 200 construction workers will complete the larger freeze wall in the spring by drilling a series of 150 well bores that will be pumped full of ammonia-based coolant. It will take about 18 months for the adjacent water and rock to freeze to minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the massive ice wall.

…Social impacts from potentially thousands of new workers and demands on water and energy resources leave some local residents wary.
(23 Oct 2006)
Note that the freeze wall will surround the heated area! Aaron Nuline comments over at Powering Down:

My question is this, if oil availability is not a problem, why is Shell spending $30 million dollars to create an ice wall 30 feet thick that extends 1700 feet into the ground? Projects like this are viewed by the general public as proof that the oil industry will always be able to provide us with more oil. For me however, projects like this are proof that cheap, conventional oil is about to become increasingly scarce.

Raymon J. Learsy mentions Chevron’s alternative approach:

Chevron’s process, so far tried only on paper, uses carbon dioxide, possibly aided by propellants and explosives, to break the rock underground and then pump in heated carbon dioxide to free up the oil.

A third proposed method involves microwaves, and was promoted at the Boston ASPO-USA conference. For a great summary of the situation this classic Energy Bulletin article The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado by Randy Udall and Steve Andrews. -AF