An introduction to issues in environmental geology of oil shale and tar sands
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An INTRODUCTION TO ISSUES IN ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGY OF OIL SHALE AND TAR Sands. Jeremy Boak, Colorado School of Mines Justin Birdwell, U. S. Geological Survey. Outline. Oil shale and tar sand overview Environmental issues 30 th Oil Shale Symposium highlights. 2. November 1, 2010.

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An INTRODUCTION TO ISSUES IN ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGY OF OIL SHALE AND TAR Sands

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An introduction to issues in environmental geology of oil shale and tar sands

An INTRODUCTION TO ISSUES IN ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGY OF OIL SHALE AND TAR Sands

Jeremy Boak, Colorado School of Mines

Justin Birdwell, U. S. Geological Survey


Outline

Outline

  • Oil shale and tar sand overview

  • Environmental issues

  • 30th Oil Shale Symposium highlights

2

November 1, 2010


What is oil shale

What is oil shale?

  • Organic rich sedimentary rock

  • Formed in lake or marine environments

    • Commonly carbonate rich; many not be classical shale (fissile argillaceous mudstone)

    • Contains kerogen – solid hydrocarbon

    • Primarily algal and bacterial precursor

    • Immature precursor to oil & gas

  • Produces oil upon heating

  • Or deeper burial

3

November 1, 2010


What is shale

What is shale?

4

November 1, 2010


Petroleum system perspective

Petroleum system perspective

Oil shale

Shale-hosted oil

Shale gas?

5

November 1, 2010


Oil shale resource estimates

Oil shale resource estimates

6

November 1, 2010


In situ vs external extraction oil shale

In situ vs. external extraction – oil shale

7

November 1, 2010


In situ vs external extraction oil sands

In situ vs. external extraction – oil sands

8

November 1, 2010


Environmental issues for oil shale tar sand

Environmental issues for oil shale & tar sand

  • Novel versions and combinations of familiar problems

  • Consumption of water

  • Potential contamination of water & atmosphere

  • Challenges to habitat and range

  • Interactions of ground water, surface water, soil, rock, air and ecosystem create a linked system

    • Exciting challenge to the research community to define & execute

    • Challenge to communicate research results & implications effectively

    • In a politically charged environment

9

November 1, 2010


Energy and carbon

Energy and carbon

  • Extraction of useable hydrocarbons requires a larger input of energy than traditional hydrocarbons

    • Separation of heavy oil from poorly consolidated tar sands

    • Pyrolysis of solid kerogen in oil shale

  • Raises questions of energy return on investment & carbon footprint

  • Can alternative energy sources merge with these unconventional hydrocarbon resources to mitigate GHG emissions?

10

November 1, 2010


Water use and quality

Water use and quality

  • Water use potentially higher

    • despite advances in conservation & reuse of process water

  • Mobilization of hydrocarbons underground

    • Target of some production schemes for oil shale and tar sand

    • Carries potential for contamination of ground water

  • Particulate air emission

    • Surface mining & processing may contaminate surface & ground water

    • A novel contaminant pathway not yet clearly addressed

11

November 1, 2010


Land and ecosystem issues

Land and ecosystem issues

  • Large areal extent of both types of resources

  • How to manage land to preserve ecosystems where these resources exist

  • Migration corridors of significant concern

  • High areal density of oil shale may mitigate concern

  • Disposition of spent materials

12

November 1, 2010


Multiple use issues for oil shale

Multiple use issues for oil shale

  • Current development of deeper tight gas sands of Mesa Verde Group

  • Other possible deeper targets

  • Dual resource issues

    • Saline minerals of Green River Formation

  • Environmental baseline?

13

November 1, 2010


Oil shale symposium environmental themes

Oil Shale Symposium environmental themes

  • Water consumption

  • Groundwater contamination

  • Water systems evaluation

  • Climate change impacts on water supply

  • CO2 emissions from oil shale production

  • Reuse of spent shale

  • Species threats

14

November 1, 2010


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