Survey of Energy Resources 2007
The amount of shale oil that can be recovered from a given deposit depends upon many factors. As alluded to above, geothermal heating, or other factors, may have degraded some or all of a deposit, so that the amount of recoverable energy may be significantly decreased. Some deposits or portions thereof, such as large areas of the Devonian black shales in the eastern United States, may be too deeply buried to mine economically in the foreseeable future. Surface land uses may greatly restrict the availability of some oil shale deposits for development, especially those in the industrial western countries. The obvious need today is new and improved methods for the economic recovery of energy and by-products from oil shale. The bottom line in developing a large oil shale industry will be governed by the price of petroleum-based crude oil.
The high petroleum price of recent times has prompted governments around the world to re-examine their energy supplies and to consider national security issues. Whereas at one time an indigenous energy resource such as oil shale would have been left undeveloped, it is now becoming attractive and feasible to further R&D programmes.
The current high interest in oil shale is evidenced by the fact that in October 2006, some 270 participants, representing 20 countries, were registered for an oil shale symposium organised by the Colorado School of Mines (CSM). During the proceedings the CSM extended an offer of help to the development of oil shale resources around the world. It was noted that whilst the opportunities exist, the technological and environmental challenges of a zero emission policy are great.
John R. Dyni
US Geological Survey