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Petrobras to Study Oil Shale Development in US

Petrobras has signed an agreement with Oil Shale Exploration Company (Osec) and Japanese investment and trading company Mitsui & Co. Ltd (Mitsui) under which the three will conduct a joint study on the feasibility of oil shale development project in Utah.

Petrobras will undertake a technical, economical and environmental commercial feasibility study testing its Petrosix oil shale technology (earlier post) on the resources controlled by Osec in Utah. Mitsui will provide advice concerning project management and promotion. Under this agreement, based on the result of the feasibility study and certain other conditions, Petrobras and Mitsui each obtained the right to acquire a 10% to 20% stake each in the project from Osec.

Petrobras uses a conventional production process in which the shale is mined, crushed and fed into a proprietary surface gas combustion retort for pyrolysis and processing. The Petrobras 11m vertical shaft Gas Combustion Retort (GCR) is the largest surface oil shale pyrolysis reactor currently operating.

The Petrosix oil shale processing technology has more than 30 years of successful commercial operation at Petrobras’ Unit in Sao Mateus do Sul, Parana State. Petrobras is also exploring the application of Petrosix technology in Africa and the Middle East.

Osec’s Utah oil shale project encompasses the lease of a oil shale property from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for oil shale research, development and demonstration and the purchase of more than 22,000 acres of privately-owned oil shale property in the Green River Basin of Utah. The combined lease and owned property provides Osec with ownership or rights to more than 30,000 acres of oil shale property, with a discovered resource base in the range of 3 billion barrels, according to Norwest Corporation estimates.



Extracting oil shale by mining is both inefficient and terribly polluting, and would release huge amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Not mentionning that it would totally destroy the green river site.


Whoop-de-do. 3 billion barrels is all of about a month's global consumption. Although such smaller "finds" may be what we have to look forward to post-peak, it is discouraging that more is still not being done to develop truly renewable techniques.

We need to get off of extractive energy production. Period. Especially oil shale mining, with its terrible EROEI, that also destroys the landscape and releases large amounts of CO2 before the oil has even left the well.

It's a dead end.


How much sun falls on those 30,000 acres? How much wind blows across it?

If anything could be worse than coal as an energy source, oil shale has got to be it.

John Taylor

Perhaps the USA is noticing Canadians becoming increasingly unhappy with the oil shale industry, and want even less useful ways of extracting oil but a bigger mess left behind.

I'm sure for the appropriate dollars they will find worse things.


The Green River Formation reportedly has about 800 billion barrels of oil in it. Easily three Saudi Arabias. Note that this area is on private, rather than Federal land. Congress put a moratorium on shale development on Federal lands.

Recent polls show growing support for domestic drilling. Congress will have to respond to that eventually. Whether that will include shale is another matter.



Keep in mind that oil shale are not oil but a precursor of oil and requires extra processing to become oil, which means extra energy. Also the other proble is that this kerogen is trapped in a porous rock which requires mining which is quite intensive, and you have to process huge amount of this shale since the kerogen is very diluted in the rock. Ones you have extracted the kerogen you are left with mountain of rock that are 30% bigger than the volume extracted due to decompacting, Quite a nsaty work indeed,

I sincerly hope this oil shale will stay in the ground for ever.



An alternative method is to bake the stuff in situ so that the kerogen completes its transition into oil and then pump it to the surface. Shell claims an EROEI of 3:1. But it has to be baked for a couple years before it starts producing. It has the effect of leaving the ground above relatively undisturbed, compared to other direct mining methods.

Golden Boy


I've been hearing about Shell's technology for a couple years now. When are we going to see some actual product?


Golden Boy:

If and when Congress lifts the moratorium. They recently rejected that. This Petrobas development is on private land, so it doesn't apply.



My understanding of the Shell process is that you have to cook fo 4/5 years and that you have to build a nuclear plant to supply the energy, which would makes the all thing the most absurd way to extract energy. Anyway, An EROI of 3 is simply a disaster, 5 is considered a minumum for viable process, also when you are in these low value the uncertainty is huge and you easily fall in the area where you are negative, an EROI of 3 is an unacceptable risk for a corporation like Shell. Beleive me if we start extract these nasty oil shale that means we would be in the utter despear and on the verge of collapse.

By the way are you aware that because of falling EROI the energy produced by coal as alerady peaked despite increasing production in volume ? and I think the same is clos to be true for oil


There is also some in-situ RF technology for oil shale and tar sands developed by Raytheon and sold to Schlumberger.
More at:

Not sure if it's the same technology somebody above mentioned as Shell's.


Not all oil shale extraction is bad. Goldnev Resources have 2 billion barrels of oil shale reserves in Canada and their method involves NO water (except drinking water & keeping down dust) and is just like a mining operation.

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