Oil Shale

EMD Oil Shale Committee May 2005


Oil shales ranging from Cambrian to Tertiary in age occur in many parts of the world. Deposits range from small occurrences of little or no economic value to those of enormous size that occupy thousands of square miles and contain many billions of barrels of potentially extractable shale oil. Total world resources of oil shale are conservatively estimated at 2.6 trillion barrels. However, petroleum-based crude oil is cheaper to produce today than shale oil because of the additional costs of mining and extracting the energy from oil shale. Because of these higher costs, only a few deposits of oil shale are currently being exploited in China, Brazil, and Estonia. However, with the continuing decline of petroleum supplies, accompanied by increasing costs of petroleum-based products, oil shale presents opportunities for supplying some of the fossil energy needs of the world in the years ahead.

Definition of oil shale
Most oil shales are fine-grained sedimentary rocks containing relatively large amounts of organic matter from which significant amounts of shale oil and combustible gas can be extracted by destructive distillation. Included in most definitions of "oil shale", either stated or implied, is the potential for the profitable extraction of shale oil and combustible gas or for burning as a fuel. Oil shale differs from coal whereby the organic matter in coal has a lower atomic H:C ratio and the OM:MM ratio of coal is usually greater than 4.75:5.

Origin of oil shale
Oil shales were deposited in a wide variety of environments including freshwater to saline ponds and lakes, epicontinental marine basins and related subtidal shelves. They were also deposited in shallow ponds or lakes associated with coal-forming peat in limnic and coastal swamp depositional environments. It is not surprising, therefore, that oil shales exhibit a wide range in organic and mineral composition. Most oil shales contain organic matter derived from varied types of marine and

lacustrine algae, with some debris of land plants, depending upon the depositional environment and sediment sources.

History of the oil shale industry
The use of oil shale can be traced back to ancient times. By the seventeenth century, oil shales were being exploited in several countries. One of the interesting oil shales is the Swedish alum shale of Cambrian and Ordovician age that is noted for its alum content and high concentrations of metals including uranium and vanadium. As early as 1637, the alum shales were roasted over wood fires to extract potassium aluminum sulfate, a salt used in tanning leather and for fixing colors in fabrics. Late in the 1800s, the alum shales were retorted on a small scale for hydrocarbons. Production continued through World War II but ceased in 1966 because of the availability of cheaper supplies of petroleum crude oil. An oil shale deposit at Autun, France, was exploited commercially as early as 1839. The Scottish oil shale industry began about 1859, the year that Colonel Drake drilled his pioneer well at Titusville, Pennsylvania. As many as 20 beds of oil shale were mined at different times. Mining continued during the 1800s and by 1881 oil shale production had reached one million metric tons per year. With the exception of the World War II years, between 1 and 4 million metric tons of oil shale were mined yearly in Scotland from 1881 to 1955 when production began to decline, then ceased in 1962. Canada produced some shale oil from deposits in New Brunswick and Ontario in the mid-1800s. Common products made from oil shale from these early operations were kerosene and lamp oil, paraffin, fuel oil, lubricating oil and grease, and amonium sulfate. With the introduction of the mass production of automobiles and trucks in the early 1900s, the supposed shortage of gasoline encouraged the exploitation of oil shale deposits for transportation fuels. Many companies were formed to develop the oil shale deposits of the Green River Formation in western United States, especially in Colorado. Oil placer claims were filed by the thousands on public lands in western United States. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 removed oil shale and certain other fossil fuels and minerals on public lands administered by the Federal Government from the status of locatable to leaseable minerals. Several oil shale leases on Federal lands in Colorado and Utah were issued to private companies in the 1970s. Large-scale mine facilities were developed on the properties and experimental underground "modified in situ" retorting was carried out on one of the lease tracts. However, all work has ceased and the leases have been relinquished to the Federal Government. Unocal operated the last largescale experimental mining and retorting facility in western United States from 1980 until its closure in 1991. Unocal produced 4.5 million barrels of oil from oil shale averaging 34 gallons of shale oil per ton of rock over the life of the project.

Recoverable resources

. Thickness. R.. 411-421.. Bauert. and others.. 1989. Division of Fossil Fuels. Piceance Creek Basin. their. 56. V. Ca. Hutton. and Rock-Eval analyses of some world oil shales in Proceedings 1989 Eastern Oil Shale Symposium: University of Kentucky Institute for Mining and Minerals Research. People's Republic of China: International Journal of Coal Geology. NSW. and others. origin. J. Fischer assay. Macauley. p.. When the price of shale oil is comparable to that of crude oil because of diminishing resources of crude. 753 p.T. Dyni. Johnson. 50 p..S. J. 1987. p. Australian oil shale: a compendium of geological and chemical data: CSIRO Inst. p. v. 1981.C. Pitman. p. D. 53. 155 p. The Baltic oil shale basin: an overview in Proceedings. 14. and kriged resource estimates for the Eocene Green River Formation. v. Organic-rich shale of the United States and world land areas: U. and others. Energy and Earth Sciences. 217-236.. and Swanson. p. George. Smith. then shale oil may find a place in the world fossil energy mix . 1993 Eastern Oil Shale Symposium: University of Kentucky Institute for Mining and Minerals Research. Geology of the Fushun coalfield. 1969 Oil shale of Permian Iratí Formation: Bulletin American Association of Petroleum Geologists. oil-yield. 6. . 1994. Geological Survey Oil and Gas Investigations Chart OC-132.W. The Devonian-Mississippian oil shale resource of the United States in Gary. 1980. Colorado: U. v. Petrographic classification of oil shales: International Journal of Coal Geology.The amount of shale oil that can be recovered from a given deposit depends upon many factors. occurrence. The Scandinavian alum shales: Sveriges Geologiska Undersökning. 1990. Russell. v.E. 1990... The bottom line in developing a large oil shale industry will be governed by the price of petroleum-based crude oil. especially those in the industrial western countries.K. New York. Oil shales of the world. 203-231. Comparison of hydroretorting. Heikki. J. 23. A. Duncan. J. 30 p. P.S. Sixteenth Oil Shale Symposium Proceedings: Colorado School of Mines Press. Matthews. may be too deeply buried to economically mine in the foreseeable future. Selected References Andersson. Australia. Ser.. no.. Some deposits or portions thereof. Crisp. E.R.H. 109 p.C. 1983. Geology of the oil shale deposits of Canada: Geological Survey of Canada Open File Report OF 754. Avhandlingar Och Uppsatser I A4. and others. p. Padula. Astrid.]. Liaoning Province. nr. Surface land uses may greatly restrict the availability of some oil shale deposits for development. and exploitation: Pergamon Press. North Ryde. 14-25. Oil shale resources of the United States: Colorado School of Mines Mineral and Energy Resources.D. 1987. 30 p. [ed.A. V.. Geological Survey Circular 523. 591-602. 8.L. P. such as large areas of the Devonian black shales in eastern United States. 1985. 270-286.T.

The results of this study clearly suggest that more detailed. biostratigraphic and palaeoecological data is crucial for refined depositional models and more sophisticated evaluations of the regional source rock potential. see references list). Despite the obvious similarities in organic richness and log response. They contain up to 17% TOC and in well logs are characterised by high gamma radiation associated with high uranium contents at or near the base of the shale succession. 2000a.Silurian and Devonian black shales in North Africa and the Western Interior Basin Sebastian Lüning Lower Silurian and Upper Devonian (Frasnian-Famennian) organic-rich (‘hot’) shales are the origin of almost all Palaeozoic-sourced hydrocarbons in North Africa. biostratigraphy and geochemistry and the results have been summarised in Lüning et al. b. The two hot shale units have been studied in detail across North Africa by means of well logs. whereas the . focused. submitted. the lower Silurian and Frasnian hot shales differ from one another in a number of important aspects: Importance of source rock: It has been estimated that the lower Silurian hot shales are the origin of 90% of all Palaeozoic-sourced hydrocarbons in North Africa. (1999.

Frasnian organic-rich strata with TOCs >3% have thicknesses of locally more than 200 m (in the Algerian part of the Ghadames/Berkine Basin). Depositional model: We interpret the lowermost Silurian hot shales to have been deposited during the initial transgression. and (3) approximation of the general shale mineralogy based on Th/K crossplots. for example.Frasnian black shales have sourced the remaining 10%. In contrast. In addition. . Main fields of application in sedimentology are (1) approximation of organic content of marine black shales based on the uranium content. Their origin is assumed to be associated with restricted circulation with flow barriers formed by emergent or shallow highs associated with the late Ordovician palaeorelief. In some areas of the Ghadames Basin the usual Early Llandoverian. while in the Frasnian it corresponds to only ca. More information on field-based gamma-ray spectroscopy in sedimentology Gamma-ray logs are a standard tool in hydrocarbon and minerals exploration. In contrast. (2) apatite concentration of phosphorites based on the uranium content. Few people know that there are also portable gamma-ray spectrometers available which allow fieldbased gamma measurements. More work has to be carried out on the two hot shale units in Libya. Of high importance are.and inter-basin correlations. The exact distribution and depositional mechanisms of this latter hot shale event are largely unknown and need to be investigated in more detail. basal Silurian hot shale horizon is complemented by an additional organic-rich unit of Late Llandovery-Wenlock age. detailed biostratigraphic studies based on graptolites (Silurian) and conodonts (Frasnian) using core material. Correlation of organic content with gamma ray values: A TOC value of 3% correlates in the lower Silurian hot shales with a gamma ray value of approximately 200 API. Palynomorphs provide important age data but do not have the required level of biostratigraphic resolutions for detailed intra. 150 API. after melting of the late Ordovician glaciers. the Frasnian hot shales are interpreted to have been deposited during peak sealevel in association with a rise of the oxygen minimum zone. high primary productivity conditions may have prevailed along the shelf edge at this time. Maximum thickness of shales >3% TOC: The lower Silurian hot shales in the Ghadames and Murzuq basins rarely exceed 25 m in thickness. The comparatively lower contribution of the Frasnian source rocks to hydrocarbon generation may be explained by their less widespread regional distribution and their lower thermal maturity due to their higher stratigraphic position.

Ready availability of data . upper Devonian and mid Cretaceous (Cenomanian-Turonian boundary) black shales of North Africa.Non-destructive .Continuous sampling . this is more complicated and partly impossible in Cretaceous strata. Typical portable gamma-ray spectrometer . with intermediate values found in the Devonian. especially in carbonates. we test the applicability of spectrogamma data as a proxy for the organic richness in black shales in a comparative study involving the lower Silurian. First results indicate that for a given TOC value.Relict uranium in weathered strata Currently. other log-based techniques using sonic and resistivity values are more promising tools to predict TOC values.Cost-effective . While in the Upper Devonian and Lower Silurian the gamma-ray curves may be used as proxies for the organic richness in black shales.The field-based gamma-ray spectroscopy technique has the following advantages over labbased analyses: . In the Cretaceous. the uranium content has gradually decreased from the Silurian to the Cretaceous.

Both experienced North African explorers and colleagues with little regional knowledge will find it useful. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Freshly excavated Silurian black shales in the Anti-Atlas of Morocco And what is a 'black shale' ? . especially for those working in Palaeozoic petroleum systems in Libya. featuring this important source rock. The film is suitable for advanced geology students and professional geologists. The mixture of animated graphics and Saharan outcrop scenes make this film easily digestible. explaining the basic depositional mechanisms and distribution trends. despite its geological heavyweight. Order online.Arabian Palaeozoic basins is the Silurian hot shale which is complex in origin and distribution. Here you can also view a free 3-minute sample from the film. Further content details can be found on the 7C homepage . A documentary film on DVD is onow available.May 2005 New Documentary film about the Silurian black shale of Libya The main source rock of the North African . North Africa and Arabia.

Also featured in the film is a new field technique based on spectral gamma-ray measurements that for the first time allows mapping of the Silurian hot shale in Saharan outcrops. combined with outcrop video footage from the western margin of the SW Libyan Murzuq Basin. comprehensive overview of the characteristics and origin of this prominent black shale unit in Libya. plus postage Download the trailer (3 minutes. weathering destroys the organic matter and characteristic black colour of this unit on the desert surface making it complicated to identify by traditional techniques.99 EUR (companies). PAL (other formats upon request) Price: 19. • • • • Duration: 35 min Language: English Format: DVD. reduced quality): Windows Media File . The film gives an easily digestible.Characteristics and Origin of the Silurian Source Rock in the Libyan Saharan Desert Target Audience Professional petroleum exploration geologists and advanced geology students Contents The Silurian "hot shale" is the most important Palaeozoic hydrocarbon source rock in North Africa and Arabia. 49.99 EUR (private and academia). Commonly. Controlling mechanisms such as sealevel. A predictive depositional model is proposed that distinguishes a lower from an upper hot shale. palaeorelief and climate are discussed. The current knowledge of the subject is presented in animated graphics.

(for Windows Media Player) .



Frasnian shales .Contact Givetian limestones .

416'N / 3°47.493'E Base: 26°16.622'N / 3°47.Ain Bagline (BAG) Top: 26°16.316'E .

Overview of section .

Givetian limestones at base of section .

Frasnian shale .090'E Base: 26°25.237'E Contact Givetian limestone .534'N / 0°37.Bled El Mass (BEM) Top: 26°25.538'N / 0°37.

Sampling holes in the monotonous shale succession .

Carbonate concretion at gamma-horizon 16 .

gamma-horizon 36 .Alternating red and gray shales.

823'E Overview Ain Inahas structure .390'N / 3°41.Ain Innahas (INN) Base: 27°06.

Interval between horizons 8-13 .

Horizon 11 (black shale) .

Upper part of section .

866'N / 0°46.886'N / 0°46.868'E Overview of section .Jebel Tamamate (JTM) Top: 26°14.934'E Base: 26°14.

Horizons 1-17 .

Horizon 3 .

Horizon 10 .

Horizons 24-31 (in sandstorm) .

Horizons 31-42 .

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