WHAT IS OIL SHALE?
Oil shale is a very fine-grained sedimentary rock containing a solid, organic material that converts to oil when heated. While oil shale deposits occur in 27 countries, the largest and highest quality oil shale deposits globally occur in a sparsely populated area covering parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
WHY DOES HEATING RELEASE THE HYDROCARBON MATERIAL?
The organic material, kerogen, contained in oil shale, generally contains enough hydrocarbons (oil) that it will burn without any additional processing, and it is known as "the rock that burns”. More sophisticated heating processes allow the kerogen in oil shale to be converted to oil through the chemical process of pyrolysis.
Historically, oil shale has been heated to roughly 500°C (in the absence of air) allowing the kerogen to be converted to oil and separated out, a process called "retorting". High temperatures tend to degrade the quality of the extracted oil product. Recent developments allow for processing at lower temperatures. Lower temperatures result in higher quality oil production at the point of extraction of the kerogen from the ore.
The EcoShale™ In-Capsule Technology uses low temperature heating that results in a high quality feedstock produced from the process.
IN WHAT FORM ARE THE HYDROCARBONS RELEASED FROM THE OIL SHALE?
The EcoShale™ In-Capsule Technology process produces liquid refinery feedstock and synthetic natural gas.
WHAT METHODS ARE USED TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF THE OIL SHALE RESOURCES?
Oil shale can be evaluated for its heating value or its oil content. Heating value is usually considered when determining the output from direct heating or use for electric generation.
When considering oil shale quality for liquid transportation feedstocks, it is most useful to assess the yield of oil that results from a shale sample in a laboratory retort. This is the most common type of analysis currently used to evaluate an oil shale resource. The method commonly used in the United States is called the "modified Fischer assay," first developed in Germany, then adapted by the US Bureau of Mines for analyzing oil shale of the Green River Formation in the western United States (Stanfield and Frost, 1949). The technique was subsequently standardized as the American Society for Testing and Materials Method D-3904-80 (1984). Some laboratories have further modified the Fischer assay method to better evaluate different types of oil shale and different methods of oil shale processing.
DOES OIL SHALE TAKE CONSIDERABLE AMOUNTS OF WATER TO PRODUCE?
It is estimated that the average water usage across oil shale technologies is one-three barrels per barrel of oil produced. Red Leaf Resources anticipates that approximately eight gallons, or one-fifth a barrel of water, will be required to produce a barrel of oil using the EcoShale™ In-Capsule Technology. Test pilot results support this calculation.
DOES OIL SHALE DEVELOPMENT REQUIRE SIGNIFICANT SURFACE DISTURBANCE?
The EcoShale™ In-Capsule Technology process is characterized by rapid reclamation that allows for moderation of the surface disturbance. Red Leaf Resources anticipates that the cycle from construction to reclamation will be approximately 12 months.
HOW WILL OIL SHALE DEVELOPMENT IMPACT EMISSIONS OF CO2?
The process of oil shale extraction and converting it into oil does result in production of CO2; however, there are methods to manage the carbon footprint including: sequestering carbon, storing it underground, putting it into saline aquifers, and so on. Moreover, management of the carbon footprint is being intergrated into many technologies. The design of the EcoShale™ In-Capsule Technology results in two-thirds fewer carbon emissions than traditional retort methods.
The bottom line is that it is possible to have oil shale development while simultaneously managing emissions of CO2 with management of the carbon footprint integrated in the technology of recovery.