Oil shale

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Oil shale is a sedimentary rock that can be turned in shale oil when liquefied. Shale oil differs from conventional crude oil and can be more costly financially and environmentally. Oil shale can be found around the world. Two-thirds of the world’s oil shale deposits can be found in the United States.

Size comparison between a penny and an oil shale rock


Oil shale mining has not been around for a long time. In the 1970s the U.S. was already researching oil shale. However, oil shale production did not increase until later. The Energy Policy of 2005 directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lease its land for oil shale research and development.[1] The leases were good for 10 years and could expand depending on whether the technology seemed commercially viable. In 2008, the George W. Bush administration made an executive order to put two million more acres up for lease to oil shale extractors. Since then oil shale production has increased. About 62% of the world’s oil shale can be found in the U.S. Specifically the oil shale is in the Green River basin of the western United States. The Green River Basin is in parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.[2] This area of land is managed by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management. This means that the federal government is a key player in the potential development. Less productive oil shale deposits can be found in the Eastern United States.


Oil shale mining in eastern Estonia

Oil shale usage has gone up in recent years. A large quantity of oil shale can be found in the U.S. The U.S. has three times the oil in recoverable oil shale than Saudi Arabia has in proven resources.[2] Since 2005, oil shale use has increased. [3] Oil shale production has a lot of impacts on the oil industry. Oil suppliers and OPEC play a large role in the production and price of oil. Oil shale can be used to make diesel fuel, gasoline, and liquid petroleum gas.[4] These energy sources can be used to power machines such as cars, lawnmowers, generators, etc.

Mining process

One process of mining oil shale is referred to as in-situ. This is the process of underground heating to obtain the oil shale.[2] Since the oil shale is rock, it needs to be heated in order to retrieve the oil properties. The rock is heated to 650-750 degrees Fahrenheit and is brought to the surface using traditional pumps [5]. This process requires the use of water. It has been found that an average of about five barrels of water is needed for every barrel of oil produced. It is estimated that water for extraction would be initially available from local resources, but the size of the oil shale industry may be limited due to water availability.

Environmental impact

Many organizations have researched environmental impacts of oil shale. A large consensus argues that oil shale mining is harmful to water resources. Water is needed for the extraction of oil shale. However, it has been found that chemicals are being released into the water from the mining process.[6] The states of Colorado and Utah have regulatory responsibilities over various activities that occur during oil shale development, including the Clean Water Act. [7] Research shows that there are risks but do not come to conclusions. Some agencies argue that we should stop oil shale extraction due to these risks.


The benefit of oil shale is that it provides the world with an extra resource of oil. The United States of America, a producer of about two-thirds of oil shale, is creating competition for other oil providers. In 2014, the U.S. surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world's leading oil producer.[8] The American oil shale industry has had an influence on the rest of the world's oil producers. OPEC countries prefer to keep the price of oil barrels near $100 dollars a barrel. Since the surge of American oil, OPEC is forced to make their prices closer to $50 per barrel in order to maintain good business. Without competition, OPEC would have the power to make oil whatever price they want.

See also

Other closely related articles in this wiki include:


  1. Oil Shale Development in the United States: Prospects and Policy Issues - RAND_MG414.pdf. N.d. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2005/RAND_MG414.pdf, accessed March 3, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 About Oil Shale. N.d. Oil Shale & Tar Sands Progammatic EIS. http://ostseis.anl.gov/guide/oilshale/, accessed February 4, 2016.
  3. Cristiana Belu Manescu, and Nuno Galo. 2015. Quantitative Effects of the Shale Revolution 86: 855–866.
  4. Society, National Geographic, and National Geographic Society. 2013. Oil Shale. National Geographic Education. http://education.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/oil-shale/, accessed February 18, 2016.
  5. Oil Shale. N.d. IER. http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/topics/encyclopedia/oil-shale/, accessed February 4, 2016.
  6. Microsoft Word - Shale Gas Primer Update v2 - Shale-Gas-Primer-Update-2013.pdf. N.d. https://www.netl.doe.gov/File%20Library/Research/Oil-Gas/shale-gas-primer-update-2013.pdf, accessed March 3, 2016.
  7. GAO-11-929T Energy Development and Water Use: Impacts of Potential Oil Shale Development on Water Resources - 126827.pdf. August 24, 2011. http://www.gao.gov/assets/130/126827.pdf, accessed March 3, 2016.
  8. Porter, Eduardo. 2015. Behind Drop in Oil Prices, Washington’s Hand. The New York Times, January 20. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/21/business/economy/washingtons-role-in-oil-prices-recent-fall.html, accessed March 5, 2016.

External links

Relevant online sources to this wiki article include:

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