SHALE OIL: A NEW FUEL FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

McFarland, James D. (Southern Pacific Petroleum N.L. and Central Pacific Minerals N.L. (SPP/CPM), PO Box 7101 Riverside Centre, Brisbane, QLD 4001 Australia)

OnePetro 

SHALE OIL: A NEW FUEL FOR THE 21st CENTURY SHALE OIL: A NEW FUEL FOR THE 21ST CENTURY James D. McFarland, Southern Pacific Petroleum N.L. and Central Pacific Minerals N.L. (SPP/CPM), PO Box 7101 Riverside Centre, Brisbane, QLD 4001 Australia Abstract. Over the past 25 years two Australian companies, Southern Pacific Petroleum N.L. and Central Pacific Minerals N.L. (SPP/CPM), and their co-venturers have invested A$400 million in a bid to create a modern shale oil industry in Australia. An important milestone was reached in 1999 with construction of the A$250 million Stuart Stage 1 demonstration plant in Queensland, Australia in a joint venture with Canada's Suncor Energy Inc. (Suncor). The 4,500 b/d (715 m3/d) plant is currently being commissioned by Suncor, the project operator. Stuart is one of 10 high quality, silica based oil shale deposits held by SPP/CPM and its co-venturers along the Queensland coast which contain an estimated 29 billion barrels (4.59 Gm3) of in-situ resource. The Stuart project incorporates the Alberta- Taciuk Processor (ATP) retort technology which was chosen following a A$150 million R&D program in the 1980s. With technical and operational success in Stage 1, the Stuart Joint Venture expects to scale up the ATP in Stage 2 to a commercial sized module producing 15,000 b/d (2,350 m3/d). This could lead to a commercial scale operation of at least 85,000 b/d (13,500 m3/d) by 2007. Success at Stuart creates a new development paradigm for oil shale with important implications for world oil supply. In terms of recent developments, China

INTRODUCTION

has been seeking potential foreign investment in the reconstruction of the Fushun East open- Despite the immense size and pervasive pit coal mine in Liaoning Province where it is nature of the world's oil shale resource, large- planned to mine oil shale in conjunction with scale commercial development has yet to be coal. A similar operation has been underway achieved. Oil shale industries have operated in in the West mine with shale production of 3 to many countries since the 19th century, but the 4 million tonnes per year.(1) development of relatively inexpensive and In Estonia, the world leader in oil shale plentiful supplies of conventional crude oil in mining, the government has been in discussion the first half of the 20th century made most of with private developers to assess expansion these operations redundant. potential. Most of the country's current shale The oil crisis of the early 1970s triggered production of 11 to 12 million tonnes per year a new and significant round of expenditures in is used as a solid fuel in electricity oil shale research and development, generation.(2) Also, the U.S. government has particularly in the carbonate oil shales of the recently signed a co-operation agreement with Green River Formation in the western USA. the Estonian government to invest funds for However, disappointing performance, falling research into technically an