Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
|Clean and Secure Energy from Domestic Oil Shale and Oil Sands Resources
||Last Reviewed 12/15/2012
The Institute for Clean and Secure Energy (ICSE) is pursuing research to improve industry’s ability to utilize the vast energy stored in domestic oil shale and oil sands resources in a manner that will minimize environmental impact and effectively capture the combustion CO2 from production, upgrading, and refining of the produced liquid fuel. The objective of this research is to create models and simulation tools that can be applied to all in situ thermal processes. Practitioners can then use these tools to evaluate various recovery strategies and optimize their process for energy and environmental efficiency.
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Close-up of fractured oil shale specimen from the Uinta Basin, Utah, showing weathered (white) and unweathered (black) surfaces. Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.
New sources of hydrocarbons are needed to meet increasing U.S. demand for oil. Oil sands and oil shale resources have the potential to increase domestic oil production, thereby meeting at least part of America’s growing oil demand.
In today’s environment, oil shale/oil sands development faces numerous technical, environmental, and legal challenges. Research to address these complex issues is necessary for the promotion of a viable commercial industry for liquid fuel production from oil shale/sands. The ICSE technical research program is organized around the theme of validation and uncertainty quantification through tightly coupled simulation and experimental design integrated with the legal, environmental, economic, and policy assessments required to achieve the dual goals of clean and secure energy from domestic oil sands and oil shale resources.
The research targets include:
- Basin-scale oil shale and oil sands development
- In situ thermal processing
- Environmental, legal, economic, and policy framework and assessment
This research may support and accelerate the cost-effective and environmentally safe development of the nation’s domestic oil sands/oil shale industry for production of secure liquid fuels.
This validation research brings together multi-scale experimental measurements—from molecular scale through pore scale and, ultimately, reservoir or basin scale computer simulations—to enhance our understanding of the geology and in situ processing parameters controlling efficient production of oil shale and oil sands resources. Knowledge gained from this research will apply to most, if not all, industry processes and, in particular, those processes that utilize in situ methods for resource recovery. In situ recovery techniques are the primary focus of this research because of their potential for reducing the environmental footprint of oil shale/sands development.
Research focused on processing oil shale and oil sands will be integrated with research addressing the legal, policy, and environmental framework surrounding development of oil shale and oil sands in the western basins and, in particular, those resources within the Uinta Basin in Utah.
Phase II research accomplishments:
Research and analyses on three different sections of the Skyline 16 core [Uintah County, Utah, T11S, R25E, Sec. 9, UTM E 661444, UTM N 4415107 (NAD83)] obtained in May 2010 have been the focus of several project tasks. Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) experiments on several small cored subsamples and powdered samples of the Skyline 16 core have been completed and core samples have been examined using 3-D multi-scale x-ray tomography to understand pore scale transport processes of oil shale pyrolysis. Pressurized and atmospheric thermogravimetric analysis experiments on pulverized core samples have been completed and analyzed to determine product bulk properties and composition. Condensable pyrolysis products have been collected and analyzed in a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS) for identification of the major components.
The ICSE used the commercial software Star-CCM+ to develop a high performance computing computational fluid dynamics (CFD)-based simulation tool to study thermal heating of oil shale inside the ECOSHALE capsule developed by Red Leaf Resources. ICSE researchers have completed first generation simulations of the American Shale Oil (AMSO) rubblized bed. This effort included development of the computational domain of a characteristic section of the heater using discrete element methods, CFD, and thermal analysis. Computed heat distribution inside the test section was compared to experimental results and the findings were presented at the 32nd Oil Shale Symposium in Golden, CO in October 2012.
Topical reports and manuscripts completed during Phase II include:
- "Lands with Wilderness Characteristics, Resource Management Plan Constraints, and Land Exchanges: Cross-Jurisdictional Management and Impacts on Unconventional Fuel Development in Utah’s Uinta Basin"
- “Conjunctive Surface and Groundwater Management in Utah: Implications for Oil Shale and Oil Sands Development”
- “Development of CFD-Based Simulation Tools for In Situ Thermal Processing of Oil Shale/Sands”
Phase I research accomplishments:
Current Status (December 2012)
Current research is focused on combining university research with industry processing requirements, thereby scaling up the research for direct benefit to commercial development of oil shale/sands resources (see recent Phase II accomplishments above). Toward this end, the University of Utah is modeling Red Leaf’s ECOSHALE process and also collaborating with AMSO, who is developing a proprietary in situ oil shale production process. Current efforts related to the ECOSHALE process have focused on increasing the fidelity of the simulation tool to account for spatial and temperature variability of shale within the capsule. In mid-May (2012) AMSO, holder of one of six Bureau of Land Management RD&D leases, announced it will begin testing of their proprietary process. ICSE researchers are collaborating very closely with AMSO scientists and receive weekly updates of the latest results of the heater test. Current research is focused on improving the geometric representation of the process by incorporating depth and temperature-varying properties that closely describe the shale formation at the AMSO site. As a result, this simulation will provide a very close representation of the actual AMSO experiment and will help AMSO scientists evaluate and better understand their experimental process.
ICSE researchers and staff are also nearing completion of the Oil Shale and Oil Sands Market Assessment. This document will provide a review of the current legal and regulatory framework to which oil shale/sands development efforts in Utah must adhere in order to be viable as well as assess the economics of four development scenarios: in situ and ex situ for both oil shale and oil sands. This comprehensive report is currently under review and is expected to be available in early 2013.
Project Start: October 1, 2009
Project End: September 30, 2013
DOE Contribution: $5,662,515
Performer Contribution: $1,415,879
NETL – Robert Vagnetti (firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-285-1334)
U. of Utah – Philip Smith (email@example.com or 801-585-3129)
If you are unable to reach the above personnel, please contact the content manager.
Quarterly Progress Report - January - March, 2013 [PDF-8.72MB] - May, 2013
Quarterly Progress Report - October - December, 2012 [PDF-1.69MB] - January, 2013
Quarterly Progress Report - July - September, 2012 [PDF-4.67MB] - November, 2012
Quarterly Progress Report - April - June, 2012 [PDF-4.84MB] - August, 2012
Topical Report - "Conjunctive Surface and Groundwater Management in Utah: Implications for Oil Shale and Oil Sands Development" [PDF-26.2MB] - May, 2012
Quarterly Progress Report - January - March, 2012 [PDF-12.5MB] - May, 2012
Quarterly Progress Report - September - December, 2011 [PDF-9.25MB] - February, 2012
Topical Report - "Development of CFD-Based Simulation Tools for In Situ Thermal Processing of Oil Shale/Sands" [PDF-12.1MB] - February, 2012
Topical Report - "Core-Based Integrated Sedimentologic, Stratigraphic, and Geochemical Analysis of The Oil Shale Bearing Green River Formation, Uinta Basin, Utah" [PDF-10.0MB] - April, 2011
Topical Report - "Atomistic Modeling of Oil Shale Kerogens and Asphaltenes Along with their Interactions with the Inorganic Mineral Matrix" [PDF-4.06MB] - April, 2011
Topical Report - “Pore Scale Analysis of Oil Shale/Sands Pyrolysis" [PDF-7.00MB] - March, 2011
Topical Report - “Land and Resource Management Issues Relevant to Deploying In-Situ Thermal Technologies" [PDF-2.29MB] - January, 2011
Topical Report - “Policy Analysis of Produced Water Issues Associated with In-Situ Thermal Technologies" [PDF-2.24MB] - January, 2011
Topical Report - “Policy Analysis of Water Availability and Use Issues for Domestic Oil Shale and Oil Sands Development" [PDF-9.07MB] - March, 2010
Quarterly Progress Report - July - September, 2011 [PDF-16MB] - November, 2011
Quarterly Progress Report - April - June, 2011 [PDF-5.86MB] - August, 2011
Quarterly Progress Report - January - March, 2011 [PDF-6.03MB] - May, 2011
Quarterly Progress Report - October - December, 2010 [PDF-8.38MB] - March, 2011
Quarterly Progress Report - July - September, 2010 [PDF-2.19MB] - November, 2010
Quarterly Progress Report - April - June, 2010 [PDF-13.6MB] - September, 2010
Quarterly Progress Report - January - March, 2010 [PDF-3.23MB] - May, 2010
Quarterly Progress Report - October - December, 2009 [PDF-2.49MB] - February, 2010