Raytheon and Partner Combine Radio Frequency and Supercritical Fluid Technology for Oil Shale Processing
Raytheon Company—a $22-billion company better known for its defense and government electronics, aerospace, information technology, and technical services capabilities—and its partner, CF Technologies, have developed a technology that may result in the more efficient extraction of oil from shale.
The technology, for which Raytheon and CF Technologies have filed patents, combines radio frequency (RF) technology from Raytheon with supercritical fluid technology from CF Technologies.
Raytheon is an expert in RF technology. What makes this effort a breakthrough is that similar RF technology that we have been applying in core defense products...has demonstrated applications in the energy crisis. We are now talking with energy companies to license our unique, patent-pending technological approach.—Lee Silvestre, director of Mission Innovation at Raytheon IDS
Critical fluids, or supercritical fluids (SCF), are liquids or gases used in a state above their critical temperature and pressure (critical point). In this state, the SCF has unique properties different from those of either gases or liquids, offering a combination of liquid-like density and solvency, with gas-like viscosity, diffusivity, compressibility and lack of surface tension.
As a result, supercritical fluids can rapidly penetrate porous and fibrous solids, offer good catalytic activity and can dissolve and extract a wide range of chemicals. Carbon dioxide is commonly used as a supercritical fluid.
Based on these properties, a number of industrial applications from cleaning to pharmaceutical manufacturing are emerging for SCF—including multiple applications in the petroleum industry.
The use of SCF technology has been explored as a mechanism for extracting oil from oil share for about a decade. Radio frequency technology for oil shale processing has also been investigated, with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory trying in-situ retorting with RF energy (among a long list of other approaches.)
But combining radio frequency and critical fluid technologies provides a revolutionary way for recovering oil from shale reserves worldwide, according to John Moses, president of CF Technologies.
Based on laboratory results and analysis, the oil produced is a light product, comparable to kerosene that can be produced by the unique process with high extraction efficiency, according to the companies.
We took a systems approach to the energy problem. Oil companies are under pressure to be more efficient in how they extract energy sources from the ground. Using our RF-CF technique provides a viable response to these pressures.—John Cogliandro, Raytheon IDS chief engineer for the project
In addition to producing more oil from shale formations, some companies may consider it an option for improving return from existing reserves that have been marginal, including heavy oils, tar sands and spent wells.
The development of this technology continues while outside experts are considering its ramifications.
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