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Researching Shell’s patented In situ Conversion Process has yielded exciting results.

in situ

Shell carried out a small field test known as the Mahogany Demonstration Project South on its private property in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, using an in-ground heating process to recover oil and gas from the shale formation.

Field results from past research, as evident in the MDP Research Chart, have matched our predictions, giving our engineers confidence in the In situ Conversion Process.

On only a 30 x 40 foot testing area, Shell successfully recovered 1,700 barrels of high quality light oil plus associated gas from shallower, less-concentrated oil shale layers. Our research to date has demonstrated that our In situ Conversion Process (ICP) works technically on a small scale - what remains is to prove it can work commercially.

Shell will continue to set a high industry standard for public participation, environmental protection and community enhancement in an effort to ensure oil shale is done the right way.

We aim to advance the technology systematically to the point at which an application could be made to convert the 160-acre RD&D tracts to commercial leases.  A commercial decision would be middle of the next decade and possibly later depending on the sequence and outcome of research activities.

Protecting Ground Water

The Freeze Wall Test, located on a 25-acre parcel of Shell’s private property in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, is an environmental study to demonstrate groundwater can be kept out of subsurface production areas using a frozen, underground barrier. 

Freeze Wall Technology

  1. Surface Footprint – Surface facilities for the freeze wall include refrigeration systems, access points to a closed-loop pipe system, monitoring wells and groundwater holes, which will pump out the groundwater from inside the production zone once the freeze wall is built, and maintenance facilities.
  2. Freeze Wall – Ammonia, a common refrigerant, is circulated through the closed-loop pipe system causing the water in the surrounding rock to freeze and form an underground wall of ice.  This freeze wall serves as an impermeable barrier to keep groundwater out of the production zone.
  3. Freeze Holes – Shell has drilled 157 holes spaced approximately eight feet apart to create the closed-loop pipe system.
  4. Shale – Up to 2,000 feet beneath the surface, the shale layer is a rock formation containing organic matter (kerogen).  When gradually heated, this organic matter is converted into oil and gas.  Shell’s goal is to find a way to produce this potential energy resource in an economically viable, environmentally responsible and socially sustainable manner.

Freezing of the freeze ring began early in 2007 and continues today.  Further research tests, including testing the integrity of the freeze wall and secondary containment options are planned for the next several years.

Demonstrating today’s knowledge

  • Oil Shale Test — A demonstration project to mature a potential commercial design.
  • Advanced Heater Test – Shell will test its second-generation heater technology to improve heating efficiency and make less-concentrated oil shale layers more economically viable for production.
  • Multi-mineral Test – Successful testing in this Nahcolite-rich region could eventually make shale oil recovery in these areas economically feasible.

Moving Forward

Shell is committed to a cautious and responsible approach to “doing oil shale the right way.” We are formulating our next proposed test on the R&D leases in a manner that will take advantage of additional information coming from our ongoing research and development activities. These activities include the developing results of our groundwater containment research, called the Freeze Wall Test, as well as ongoing development of advanced heater technologies being developed by our researchers. 

We believe this test, understand and apply research results approach will allow us to more efficiently and effectively move forward with further testing and development. This underscores our commitment to commercially develop oil shale in a way that is economically viable, environmentally responsible and socially sustainable.  

We have a very active R&D program and other activities currently underway on our private property. This work includes: the recent completion of our new office building; monitoring; seismic; hydrology testing; reclamation and as mentioned above, the ongoing Freeze Wall Test and heater technology development. 

Our research to date has demonstrated that our In situ Conversion Process (ICP) works technically on a small scale - what remains is to prove it can work commercially. We aim to advance the technology systematically to the point at which an application could be made to convert the 160-acre RD&D tracts to commercial leases. A commercial decision would be in the middle of the next decade and possibly later depending on the sequence and outcome of research activities.

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