Friday, April 28, 2006

Alternative Energy Solutions: The Interlude

by Ken Houghton

Courtesy of the comments at Sadly, No! comes this article on oil shale and this one that addresses its price feasibility.
They don't need subsidies; the process should be commercially feasible with world oil prices at $30 a barrel. The energy balance is favorable; under a conservative life-cycle analysis, it should yield 3.5 units of energy for every 1 unit used in production. The process recovers about 10 times as much oil as mining the rock and crushing and cooking it at the surface, and it's a more desirable grade. Reclamation is easier because the only thing that comes to the surface is the oil you want.

At $70/barrel, this seems more likely to be cost-effective than other interim solutions proposed. And the 25 years of research and work has led to addressing the most obvious environmental issue: turning Colorado into West-Virgina-before-Nixon:
And we've hardly gotten to the really ingenious part yet. While the rock is cooking, at about 650 or 750 degrees Fahrenheit, how do you keep the hydrocarbons from contaminating ground water? Why, you build an ice wall around the whole thing. As O'Connor said, it's counterintuitive.

As they say in the blogsphere, read the whole thing, sooner rather than later.
Most of the best territory for this astonishing process is on land under the control of the Bureau of Land Management. Shell has applied for a research and development lease on 160 acres of BLM land, which could be approved by February. That project would be on a large enough scale so design of a commercial facility could begin.

The 2005 energy bill altered some provisions of the 1920 Minerals Leasing Act that were a deterrent to large-scale development, and also laid out a 30-month timetable for establishing federal regulations governing commercial leasing.

Shell has been deliberately low-key about their R&D, wanting to avoid the hype, and the disappointment, that surrounded the last oil-shale boom. But O'Connor said the results have been sufficiently encouraging they are gradually getting more open. Starting next week, they will be holding public hearings in northwest Colorado.

Worth paying attention to.
Shell has been deliberately low-key about their R&D, wanting to avoid the hype,

I can just imagine how the oil companies feel in talking about alternative energy solutions. They have to be very careful when validating other types of energy in the public eye.

I get a sense that the public would demand more energy alternative products and services if they were available and in line price wise.
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