Well not so fast. Reserves are not the same recoverable reserves and shale oil is not yet recoverable. Wikipoedia gives an authoritative account of how shale oil is produced but its misleading. There are also huge unrecoverable shale oil reserves in Montana and elswhere. These reserves are not new. Legend holds that Natives could actually light some these oil bearing rocks on fire.
Shale oil has become a hot topic lately because of the breakthroughs in shale gas recovery. There is an expectation that the fracturing or "fracking" technology that created the natural gas abundance will evolve to produce oil from shale.
I'm not so sure. Expectations of technological progress rarely pan out as predicted or hoped. The technological leap required to liberate oil from solid rock at depth is at least as large as the leap realized by shale gas fracking. Its not a safe bet, however anything can happen.
If the worlds markets were suddenly floating in a sea of shale oil, what would change?
A collapse in oil prices would be excellent for the greater world economy. Alison Redford's Vegas style spendthrift Alberta budget would implode like a collapsing star. The Oil Sands would take a temporary hit as well. A lot of capital projects may become obsolete.
I say temporary because while Oil Sands crude is more expensive to produce, its still going to be easier to get bitumen from sand, than to somehow sqeeze oil from tight shale. Technology to extract oil from shale is just going to make it that much easier to produce from the oil sands. Say goodbye to SAGD. Say hello to more competative drilling with a smaller footprint.
Imagine that. More wealth across the board and less intensive, less intrusive production all thanks to Capitalism. David Suzuki would cry in his organic latte.
This is why fracking has become the new eco-bogey man.
Global Warming hasn't panned out for the eco nuts. All the predictions over 30 years have been wrong. The current science has been watered down to the extent that it has proved the skeptics to be right all along. Just don't look for the career alarmists to say so.
Energy from shale gas is actually 50% cleaner than oil (if you fear the eco-bogey CO2). It is particulate free. Its cheap. Abundant. Widely distributed. You cook your dinner and heat your house with natural gas. You can even run a car on it. What is not to love?
Uh-oh fracking. Every single well drilled today is fracked. Fracking is the process of fracturing oil or gas bearing rock so it can flow into a cased well bore. Its done at depths typically 1000 - 2000 meters deep. That's 4 times as deep as the CN tower. Its not even in the biosphere. The zone itself is completely inhospitable to life. It can be 200 degrees celsius while its -40 at the surface. It is deadly poisonous and toxic already. The fossil fuels may have been trapped in crushing darkness for eons. There is no way to pollute that environment. Furthermore the zone is literally burried under a mountain of overburden. Only a meteor could unearth the fracked zone. If that happens a little patch of fracking will not be the biggest problem on your mind.
Anyone you meet who opposes fracking is ignorant of the process. There is a good chance they have been scooped up into the eco-nut indoctrination machine and are quickly losing anything they may have once known.
There has been 40 years of regular fracking all over the world but now its the latest threat mother earth. Directional drilling is what made horizontal wells possible. Along with those advances new fracking techniques had to be developed to fracture the length of the horizontal section. These cumulative advances finally gave rise to shale gas fracking and will probably continue into other applications like shale oil.
Fracking isn't at all new. It isn't free of risks of course. Drilling a well is essentially a construction job. It is subject to all applicable regulations and some industry specific ones too. Fracking is as risky as building a bridge or a school. Anyone up for banning those? Right now there are hundreds of wells being completed by fracking. There are tens of thousands of fracked wells producing some part of your energy as you read this.
If oil shale fracking technology panned out it could transform mining in general. Uranium wells can already be mined through a type of fracking called in-situ recovery. What other minerals could be extracted from a horizontal wellbore?
There is more shale oil in the US than all the conventional oil in all of the world. Its not yet recoverable but you can expect that it will be at some point. Fracking will be an integral part of liberating that resource an goodness knows what other minerals. When you talk about oil shale you are talking about fracking techniques yet to be discovered.
So don't count your barrels before the wells are fracked.