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Feds Approve Shale Oil Projects

JUDITH KOHLER, AP via Mercury News
Companies hoping to tap an estimated 100-year supply of shale oil locked in rock formations under Colorado, Utah, and southwest Wyoming have won federal approval for experimental extraction projects.

Not since the 1980s have companies been as interested as they are now in extracting oil from the rock, which has historically been a laborious and expensive process.

The Interior Department authorized 10-year leases for Shell Frontier Oil & Gas Co., Chevron USA and EGL Resources Inc. for 160-acre parcels for research and development projects in northwest Colorado.

The companies must submit detailed development plans, monitor groundwater, and obtain all required permits to protect air and water quality, the department said Monday in its decision.

The projects could begin as early as next summer.

Since 1996, Shell has tested procedures on private land in western Colorado that involve baking shale rock in the ground with electric heating rods, then pumping the melted oil to the surface. The plan is to circulate refrigerants such as ammonia dioxide through underground pipes to freeze adjacent areas to keep groundwater away from the melted oil.
(14 Nov 2006)
Background: The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado by Randy Udall and Steve Andrews.

Israel sees shale replacing oil

The Israeli process for producing energy from oil shale will cut its oil imports by one-third, and will serve as a guide for other countries with oil shale deposits, according to one company.

A.F.S.K. Hom Tov presented its oil shale processing method on Tuesday, outside Haifa and just down the street from one of the country’s two oil refinery facilities.

“Because the patents for this process belong to (the company), Israel is the most advanced in the world in the effort to create energy from oil shale,” Moshe Shahal, a Hom Tov legal representative and a former Israeli energy minister, told United Press International.

Shahal estimated that the company’s Negev Desert facility would begin full-scale production in three to four years, while other countries with oil shale deposits will need five to six years to reach production.

Oil shale is limestone rock that contains hydrocarbons, or fossil fuels — about 20 percent of the amount of energy found in coal. Using the rock as a raw material and coating it with bitumen, a residue of the crude oil refining process, the company can produce natural gas, fuel, electricity, or a combination of the three.

Older technologies squeezed the hydrocarbon material out of the rock, with extremely high pressure and at high temperatures.

According to Professor Ze’ev Aizenshtat, an oil shale expert, the Hom Tov process is more environmentally friendly than other methods of converting oil shale into energy. It also allows for more flexibility in the kind of fuel produced, produces less waste and operates at lower temperatures than other methods.
(7 Nov 2006)
There’s environmentally friendly and then there’s ‘more environmentally friendly than other methods of converting oil shale into energy’ — not to be confused. -AF

Oil sands global warming threat, report says

Tarina White, Calgary Sun
Alberta’s oil sands are the country’s single biggest contributor to global warming, according to a national report released today by World Wildlife Fund Canada and the Sage Centre.

Julia Langer, director of WWF’s Global Threats program, said the oil sands are the country’s largest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

And as the main subscriber to Alberta’s Athabasca River, which is diminishing at a worrying pace due to global warming, the oil sands are delivering a double blow to the environment, she said.

“They’re literally creating a global warming problem, which is creating a fresh water problem,” said Langer.

“We have to break this quite ironic and tragic cycle of just creating more global warming.”

Today’s report, titled Implications of a 2 C global temperature rise on Canada’s water resources, shows water flows in the Athabasca River have already decreased by about 20% in the last four decades as a result of climate change.

…Alberta oil producers recycle as much as 90% of the water used each year, and in the last two decades fresh water use in the oil sands has been reduced by 50%.
(13 Nov 2006)

Bitumen inventory blowout sale

Lisa Schmidt, Calgary Herald; CanWest News Service
CALGARY – Petro-Canada is putting some oilsands properties on the auction block in a sale that could fetch as much as $1.7 billion, as the integrated oil and gas producer focuses on more developed or already producing leases.
The sale includes stakes in five in-situ properties — meaning the tar-like bitumen must be recovered with underground thermal methods instead of mining — estimated to contain 1.7 billion barrels of bitumen. ..
(17 Nov 2006)
More detail on Bloomberg, but I couldn’t go past the headline from the Calgary Herald.-LJ