• Oil extraction: an oil gusher can bring up about 20% of the deposit. Flush the deposit for secondary oil recovery with natural gas, water, or CO2 for a total of 40% (potentially also sequestering the CO2) Muller, 233

Oil and natural gas pipelines in the United States Oil and natural gas pipelines in the United States, from the Washington Post

  • Most energy sources use oil pricing as a benchmark for economic feasibility, but oil prices vary widely in a way not necessarily related to supply/demand - e.g. OPEC artificially restricts supply to drive prices
  • As oil price/barrel increases, American oil becomes more economically feasible (primarily in the lower 48) EIA, 20

Oil availability

  • Concept of peak oil:
  • The best fit for a resource extraction model is logarithmic, so while we will hit an asymptote on oil (and thus be unable to keep up with increasing demand), we won’t suddenly be out of energy. Smil, 66
  • The United States Geographical Survey sets a 95% probability there are 400b barrels of oil that can be extracted from currently known fields. At a current global rate of ~100m barrels consumed per day, this would last us 4000 years Smil, 68
  • There are enormous major sedimentary fields both associated with existing land and deep underwater that most likely have a lot of oil. They have not been truly tapped until they have the same density of drilling as Texas. Smil, 68
  • Likelihoood of discovering new oil is highest in Mesopotamian Foredeep Basin (north of Baghdad through Iraq & Kuwait to E Saudi Ar), west Siberian Basin, Zagros Fold Belt of SE Iran, Niger Delta, Rub al Khali basin, East Greenland Rift Basin. In N America, northern Alaska, Canadian Arctic, Gulf of Mexico, supplemented by Venezuela, offshore Brazil. In Africa, offshore Congo and Niger, in Algeria, Libya. Asia: Kazakhstan, Timan-Pechora Basin. Europe: Atlantic west of Scotland Smil, 68

Oil discovery

  • Geologists find likely sites for oil traps by investigating surface rocks and terrain (older method). Newer methods include the use of sniffers, gravity meters and magnetometers to find minute changes in Earth's gravitational field and magnetic fields from oil flow, and sniffers Freudenrich
  • Most common method for oil discovery: seismic survey. Shock wave is sent into the earth with compressed air gun (over water), thumper truck (over land), or explosives (land or water). Reflected shock waves reveal density and type of underground materials back to hydrophones (over water) or seismometers (over land) Freudenrich

Oil extraction

Anatomy of an oil rig Anatomy of an Oil Rig Freudenrich

  • Siting: water source is needed (if none nearby, a well may be drilled); land must be cleared and leveled; access roads may be built Freudenrich
  • Construction: a reserve pit (for waste rock cuttings and drilling mud) is dug and lined with plastic (to protect the environment). A rectangular pit "cellar" is dug around the drilling hole, for use as a workspace. A crew drills to an initial shallow depth; a rig is brought in to pump. The rig drills downward and sends mud upward through the outside of the drilling pipe until the depth of oil. Freudenrich
  • The rig is removed when oil is hit, and the well head is attached to the pump. An electric pump creates suction, drawing up the oil Freudenrich

Climate change problems caused by oil extraction

  • New oil extraction processes consume much more water than conventional practices. It takes 2.3 barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil from tar sands mining, compared to 0.1-0.3 barres of water for a barrel of conventional crude. Klein, 312
  • Bitumen (tar sands oil) is roughly 3-4 times as greenhouse intensive as coal due to its extraction process Klein, 127

Shale oil

  • The United States has about 1.5 trillion barrels of shale oil resource, enough to power the United States for 200 years Muller, 110
  • Shale oil is expensive to recover and requires a lot of environmental cleanup when extracted using retorting. Retorting requires massive mining of shale, most of which is then waste to dispose of Muller, 109
  • A newer in situ conversion process could make shale oil extraction more feasible: electrically heat deep rock (1-2km down) to 1200-1300 degrees F, then use fracking and horizontal drilling to extract over the course of 3-4 years. Shell is doing this and quotes $30/barrel Muller, 110


  • ExxonMobil is the world's largest multinational oil corporation, Khalid Al-Falh runs Saudi Aramco, the world's largest national oil Corp Smil, 74

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