According to the Unconventional Fuels Task Force report from September 20091, several companies are actively engaged in various aspects of oil shale technology development in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Go here for the full version of this report.
In addition, according to their report from June 20092, a number of public agencies, laboratories, and universities are actively involved in oil shale research. Go here for the full version of this report.
In the sections below, we offer a general overview of some of the major companies doing research into Colorado, Utah and Wyoming oil shale.
Shell Exploration and Production - www.shell.com/us/mahogany
Shell owns three (3) of the 160-acre Research, Demonstration, and Development (RD&D) leases located on BLM lands. Shell is working on an In Situ Conversion Process, where electric heaters are drilled into the oil shale resource. These heaters gradually heat the rock to between 650- and 750-degrees. At this temperature, the hydrocarbons in the oil shale are released. Once released, traditional methods are used to bring the resource to the surface. The Shell In Situ Conversion Process produces 2/3 liquid hydrocarbons and 1/3 gas hydrocarbons. In one pilot program, a 30’-by-40’ area produced 1,700 barrels of high quality light crude oil and the associated gas.
Currently, Shell is conducting their “freeze wall” test. The freeze wall is an environmental study to show that groundwater can be kept out of the production area. Holes are drilled around the production area and a closed-loop pipe system is inserted. Refrigerant is piped through the system, freezing area groundwater and creating an impermeable barrier. Once the barrier is completed, the production area is dewatered and heated. The resource is extracted and groundwater is protected.
At this time, Shell has completed the Freeze Wall. They are currently conducting tests on the Freeze Wall's effectiveness.
Red Leaf Resources, Inc. – www.ecoshale.com
Red Leaf Resources, Inc. is perfecting their new “EcoShale” process. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Red Leaf has conducted a small pilot program on Utah State Lands south of the city of Vernal. The EcoShale technology is particularly exciting, because no process water is used and no groundwater is impacted. In addition, the process is energy efficient, low in carbon-dioxide emissions, and lends itself to quick and effective reclamation.
In the EcoShale process, the topsoil in a location is removed and a bentonite environmental protection layer is constructed in the opening. Raw oil shale ore is trucked to the location and heated with natural gas. Once heated, the hydrocarbons are released, collected and refined. Once all the hydrocarbons have been removed, the spent shale is left in place. The topsoil is restored and grasses and plants quickly reestablish themselves for wildlife or rangeland uses. One item of particular note is that Red Leaf's technology could be economically viable on a small scale.
At the 2010 Colorado School of Mines Oil Shale Symposium, Red Leaf announced that their process will use less than one barrel of water per barrel of oil. In addition, they anticipate small-scale commercial production within the next 2-3 years. Currently, Red Leaf is planning a larger pilot project.
American Shale Oil, LLC – www.amso.net
American Shale Oil, LLC (AMSO) holds one of the 160-acre RD&D leases in Colorado. AMSO is a 50/50 partnership between the French energy company, Total, and IDT Corporation. The AMSO concept is to use the CCRTM (Condensation, Convection, and Reflux) Process, whereby directionally drilled, parallel heating and production wells will be drilled into the resource. There, the resource is heated, releasing the hydrocarbons. The main benefit of the AMSO program is that a minimum of surface is disturbed as the wells are drilled in a 200-foot wide corridor as opposed to directly over the resource. AMSO is currently working with the BLM on their pilot test program and characterizing their resource.
AMSO is targeting a deeper oil shale formation (ilitic) that is below the area's water tables. This could reduce the need for groundwater mitigation. Right now, they are looking to conduct a pilot test on their R,D,&D lease in late 2010 or early 2011.
Oil Shale Exploration Company – www.oilshaleexplorationcompany.com
In March 2011, it was announced that Enefit (Eesti Energia) of Estonia had acquired Oil Shale Exploration Company (OSEC). Enefit is a World leader in oil shale technology as Estonia has been utilizing oil shale for almost a century. Enefit plans to import their technology to America. The project is on a single BLM RD&D lease in Utah.
From the OSEC website: "Enefit looks forward to continuing the work started by OSEC, with the aim of developing a modern commercial shale oil industry in Utah utilizing the Enefit technology. We envision this facility as not only being a leader in its field, but also creating long term stable jobs and economic benefits for the local community, the state, and the federal government. Eesti Energia/Enefit is recognized throughout the world as the leader in oil shale development."
Ambre Energy - www.ambreenergy.com
Developing a surface retorting technology.
American Resource Petroleum Corporation - www.amrpco.com
Developing a Pyrolitic Hydrocarbon classification process.
Anadarko - www.anadarko.com
Holds resources in Colorado and Wyoming and in partnership with General Synfuels for a pilot program south of Rock Springs, Wyoming utilizing a in situ gasification process.
AuraSource - www.aurasourceinc.com
Using a low temperature catalyst technology to increase production yields. AuraSource is an applicant in the current round of R,D,&D leasing.
Chattanooga Corporation - www.chattanooga-corp.com
Developer of a pressurized Fluid Bed Reactor.
Chevron - www.chevron.com
Holds resources in Colorado and developing proprietary in situ technology.
Combustion Resources - www.combustionresources.com
Developing the C-SOS (Clean Oil Shale Process) technology.
Composite Technology Development, Inc. - www.ctd-materials.com
Developing technologies for reliable and durable in situ heaters.
EnShale - www.enshale.com
Holder of resources in Utah and developing technologies for producing shale oil.
Exxon Mobil - www.exxonmobil.com
Owns resources in Colorado and developing an in situ technology called, Electrofrac. Exxon-Mobil is one of the applicants in the current round of R,D,&D leasing.
Dr. Brent C. Fryer
General Synfuels International (GSI) - www.earthsearch.com
Testing and developing an in situ gasification process in partnership with Anadarko on a pilot program south of Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Global Resource Corporation - www.globalresourcecorp.com
Developer of microwave technology.
Developing space-based solar power technology.
Imperial Petroleum Recovery Corporation - www.iprc.com
Microwave Separation Technology (MST)
Independent Energy Partners - www.iepm.com
In partnership with French energy company, Total, this company is developing a high-temperature fuel cell stack technology showing a net energy ratio of 18:1.
James Q. Maguire, Inc.
James W. Bunger and Associates - www.jwba.com
Mountain West Energy - www.mtnwestenergy.com
Developing an in situ vapor extraction (IVE) technology. Holdings in Utah.
Natural Soda Inc. - www.naturalsoda.com
Resource owner in Colorado. Natural Soda is an applicant in the current round of R,D,&D leasing. They are looking to co-produce oil shale and their main products sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate.
Phoenix Wyoming, Inc. - www.phxwy.com
Developing in situ borehole microwave technology to rapidly heat shale, with energy to come from renewable sources.
PyroPhase - www.pyrophase.com
Developing Radio Frequency (RF) heating technology that uses wind power to store electric energy as heat underground.
Shale Tech International - www.shaletechnologies.com
Developing and licensing the Paraho and Paraho II surface retort technologies.
Syntec Energy, LLC - www.syntecenergy.com
Developing surface retort technology that combines coal gasification with a rotary kiln.
Western Energy Partners, LLC
Surface retort technology.
1Secure Fuels from Domestic Resources, U.S. Department of Energy, September 2009.
2Oil Shale Research in the United States, Profiles of Oil Shale Research and Development Activities In Universities, National Laboratories, and Public Agencies, U.S. Department of Energy, June 2009.