Important Oil Shale test to begin in Utah

January 17, 2014

After years of delay, British oil firm TomCo has finally received all the necessary permits from the state of Utah to begin the test of the EcoShale method of extracting crude oil from shale deposits.  These deposits, known as kerogen, are different from shale oil.  The formations are much tighter and, though rich in oil, are extremely difficult to render into usable form.  Other methods use copious amounts of both water and energy to extract and have negligible – even negative – returns on investment for both capital and energy.  However, the lure remains because the size of the resource is so immense – the estimated extractable amount of crude from Western US states kerogen deposits is up to three times the total oil in Saudi Arabia.    From an energy concentration point of view, US oil shale is one of the richest resources in the world.

Comparative Energy Concentrations

Tomco, and their partner Red Leaf Resources (the developers of the EcoShale process) have been prepping the test site for nearly three years.   Red Leaf believes that the energy return on energy invested (EROI) will be at least 10 – comparable to domestic crude oil production, which has an EROI of 10.5.  That means it will return 10 unites of energy for every one unit of energy used in its production.   EROI is every bit as important as financial return on investment – we know historically that high EROIs are necessary conditions for economic productivity and growth.   The EROI figure is actually more important than the total amount of oil the test is able to generate, and that is the figure that I am most eager to see.

Shale gas and oil have already shaken the foundations of the energy world, undermining the despotic regimes and weakening the “energy weapon” of the mostly autocratic nations which control the bulk of the world’s “easy” carbon fuels.  A successful test of the EcoShale process would crash that old energy model completely.  The US could become – at once – the worlds greatest energy producer, consumer and exporter.  And it would reverse the slipping geopolitical power of the United States for a century or more.




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