Exploitation of Oil Shale Deposits by Nuclear Explosives
- Gerald W. Johnson (U. of California)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- June 1959
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 20 - 21
- 1959. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 5.8.5 Oil Sand, Oil Shale, Bitumen
- 2 in the last 30 days
- 216 since 2007
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During the past two years increasing interest has developed in the possible use of nuclear explosives for mineral development. These projects are still in the discussion and study phases; however, experiments associated with some of them are expected to be executed in the near future regarding exploitation of our huge deposits of oil shale.
All of the experience with the pertinent effects of nuclear explosives has been obtained in conjunction with weapons development and testing. Herein are described results that are presently available and how they might be employed in problems of mineral exploitation.
Use of Nuclear Explosions to Recover Oil from Shale
Consideration is presently being given to the possibility of utilizing nuclear explosions to recover oil from oil shales. This project was discussed in detail at a recent Atomic Energy Commission-Bureau of Mines meeting in Dallas. The concept is to use the explosion to shatter a formation, of shale to permit recovery of oil by retorting in place.
The AEC has announced that the charges for a one million ton explosion would be $1 million, which includes placing, firing and making studies to assure the public health and safety. It has also been stated that the charges may be substantially reduced for multiple firings.
In considering the thick shale in Rio Blanca County, Colo., it was noted that the shale thickness was 1,000 to 2,000 ft (25 gal/ton grade) which would permit detonation at a depth of 2,000 to 3,000 ft. Under these conditions a detonation of a few hundred kilotons could be safely carried out to produce 30 million tons of broken permeable shale. Since the cost of the explosion is $1 million and the placement cost would perhaps be another $1 million, the cost per ton broken would be about 6 cents.
If the technology of retorting in place can be developed economically, for a major portion of the feasibility hinges on the size and distribution of the broken rock, then one sees that the breakage cost would be only a small part of the cost of producing the oil-perhaps 12 cents/bbl of recovered oil. The expected costs of retorting, as estimated roughly by the Bureau of Mines, might be as low as $2/bbl.
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