Project Bronco has been proposed as an experiment to determine whether nuclear explosions can be used in the recovery of oil from deep oil shale deposits. The experimental objectives of Bronco are: to evaluate the overall feasibility of nuclear breaking followed by in situ retorting; to investigate the gross physical effects of a nuclear explosion in oil shale; and to assess the role of radioactivities in the production of oil by in situ retorting.
A proposed experimental site in the Piceance Creek Basin of Northwestern Colorado is described. Plans for site preparation and for emplacement and detonation of the explosive preparation and for emplacement and detonation of the explosive are discussed, as are studies to be made of the underground heat and radioactivity, of the geometry of the nuclear chimney, and of the fracturing of the oil shale. Preliminary plans for oil recovery from the nuclear chimney are reviewed.
Before this application of underground nuclear explosions can become commercially feasible, a variety of technical problems must be examined. Some of these are related to nuclear explosion effects, others to the recovery of oil from the broken rock. Consideration of these factors is followed by a discussion of some long-range technical aspects for the development of a commercial technology.