Friday, January 25, 2008

Peak Oil: Meet the Raytheon Oil Shale Microwave

US defense contractor and electronics company Raytheon has developed oil extraction technology that may send "Peak Oil" packing, for a decade or two. At least, giant oil and gas developer Schlumberger thinks so:
Much as a microwave oven heats food, Raytheon Co.‘s (NYSE:RTN) technology relies on microwaves to generate underground heat and melt a waxy substance in the shale called kerogen so it can be converted into oil...Carbon dioxide heated and pressurized into a liquid form is then used to extract the oil from the rock and carry it to a well.

Raytheon and oil companies began exploring ways to extract oil from shale decades ago, but many efforts were shelved in the 1980s as oil prices and supplies stabilized. Some projects _ including Raytheon‘s _ were revived in recent years because of spiking prices, technological improvements and hopes of decreasing U.S. dependency on foreign oil....Most of the attention is focused on oil shale reserves scattered across U.S. federal lands in Colorado, Utah and southwest Wyoming _ an area estimated to contain up to 1.8 trillion barrels of oil trapped in shale, or three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia.

This technology can also be used for extracting oil from tar sands in Canada, and for extracting heavy oils.
The RF/CF combination is more economical and environmentally responsible than older oil shale extraction techniques as it uses less power, does not severely disrupt the landscape or leave behind residue that can enter groundwater supplies....For tar sands and heavy oil, the Raytheon process could yield 10 to 15 barrels of oil equivalent per barrel consumed, due to the lower heating temperatures required. When applied in tar sands, the combined RF/CF technology performs a mild upgrading in-situ, yielding an attractive light sweet crude oil. The process is “tunable”, facilitating production of various product slates.

The use of RF technology in shale processing would enable the fuel to be extracted from the earth in only one to two months. In-ground heating methods that do not employ radio waves, by contrast, require three to four years to replicate the natural conversion process.
Green Car Congress

While efforts to produce sustainable biofuels are gearing up, the ability to economically and cleanly produce petroleum from regional deposits (oil shales and tar sands) should make the necessary transition to renewable energy easier.

Peak oil doom is looking more and more like an adolescent fantasy.

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Blogger Iconoclast421 said...

adolescent fantasy eh?

Let me describe for you a fantasy.

Imagine a world where we've installed hundreds of microwave emitters over shale rock formations. At a cost of many hundreds of billions of dollars over many years, we are now producing 2 million barrels a day from shale rock. Meanwhile, given a depletion rate of 2%, global crude oil production has dropped to 60 mbpd by 2020, and more importantly, exports have dropped by 50%. Under these conditions the US would be in the throes of a deep depression. Oil imports would cost many hundreds of dollars per barrel. Perhaps thousands. But that's ok, because we have our 2 million barrels from shale. So total US production would be about 6 mbpd. Tell me something, genius, where is the other 16-22 million barrels a day going to come from?

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The technology looks promising, what kind of supply rates are possible? If its 2 mbpd then touche iconoclast!

9:22 PM  
Blogger al fin said...

Actually, pre-adolescent fantasy may be more accurate. ;-)

In the echo chambers of peak oil, childish doom-seeking is the norm.

Zachary, Raytheon has not developed the technology far enough to tell. That is up to Schlumberger and its contractors.

Since 2/3s of oil remains in the ground, even in the big conventional wells of the middle east, it will be interesting to see where new oil recovery technology goes--especially with oil in the $120 to $130 plus range.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Bill Edwards said...

Anyone have a name/contact at Raytheon to talk to about this? A Phoenix company called Spheric Technologies ( is importing custom-made hi-tem industrial microwave furnace from China, and has exclusive Western Hemishpere rights to a host of Penn State Microwave Center patents (Spheric sells the furnaces with sub-license rights). They should be talking to Raytheon.

10:23 AM  

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