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Fuel & Energy Information - What is Oil Shale?


Due to fast growing industries and improved life styles (gadgets, electronics and other household appliances) we now use more energy in industry and transportation as well as in almost every aspect of our personal lives. This need for energy has compelled nations to search for new sources of materials to produce energy from in order to fulfill the daily needs of their citizens.

Oil shale is one such resource that offers hope as a new energy source. It is basically a sedimentary rock substance which has some fine grains within it of a substance called “Kerogen”. It is an organic material which can be used to produce some liquid hydrocarbons. The liquid hydrocarbons produced are not true oil in nature but this shale oil may replace natural oil and gas in the next few decades as the deposits of traditional natural oil and gas deplete and eventually become exhausted and people are forced to turn to replacement sources.

The process of production of shale gas and oil is actually very simple and a cost effective alternative to normal oil and gas production. Through chemical analysis, crude oil is first generated from the kerogen and heated to a particular temperature to get a distilled shale oil product which is similar to conventional petroleum oil but not exactly so when compared at the molecular level. You can also obtain low grade power fuel directly by heating shale oil which is effective for power generation in many industrial applications.

Currently Middle East gulf countries are the prime exporters of natural oil and gas but as existing resources have depleted with our over consumption, crude oil prices have consequently soared much higher over the last decade. As the increasing energy needs of human beings climbs, the consumption of oil and natural gas directly increases also and with increasing prices comes a definite need to shift to an alternative like shale gas and oil which can be added to the available energy resource pool at a fairly reasonable price.

Research and various studies have shown usable enough reserves of shale gas located in both Western and Asian countries. It has also been found that shale gas emissions have a relatively low carbon content and as such they make a good alternative to traditional fossil fuels. The utilization of environmentally sustainable alternatives must occur in the near future though to help protect our planet from both pollution and increasingly severe “green house” effects.

The extraction of shale gas and oil faces many issues such as environmental impact concerns, divergent government policies, funding and the overall economic value of these projects amongst others. Environmental protection acts and concerns about the overall impact of the extraction process is a major hurdle for companies wanting to capitalize on the rising demand for shale oil and gas energy.

Although there are many problems to be addressed with the utilization of shale gas, the immense future need, in light of diminishing traditional natural resources and in the context of the current oil crisis situation, may direct sufficient resources and funding into the industry to make shale oil and gas a viable and sustainable part of our daily life in future.



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