Heater cable used for shale oil recovery

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 7 -- A technology as simple as an advanced heater cable could hold the key to tapping vast US oil shale resources without mining, the US Department of Energy's Fossil Energy Office said.

Composite Technology Development Inc., a Lafayette, Colo., engineering and technology development company, has demonstrated the application of a ceramic-composite insulated cable for oil shale recovery, DOE said.

"With DOE's support over two phases of this project, CTD has demonstrated a way to tap into the western oil shale resources. With two-thirds of the world's supply of oil shale in the United States, technologies such as this can go a long way toward bolstering the development of our domestic energy resources, creating jobs, and supporting energy security," said Victor K. Der, acting assistant US energy secretary for fossil energy.

DOE said CTD researchers tested its cable for 5,000 continuous hours at temperatures of 760-850° C. During tests, the cable overcame many limitations of existing cables including conductor instability, moisture-induced degradation, and operating temperatures.

CTD's work was done as a small business innovation research project through the Fossil Energy Office's oil and gas program, and the project was managed by DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory.

CTD's heater cable test holds promise for in-situ heating of the shale oil to a depth of 5,000 ft, separating the kerogen without having to mine the rock, DOE said. If underground tests of the cable succeed, operators could extract a petroleum-like liquid fluid enough to be pumped to the surface, it said.

Such a process could cut shale oil recovery costs in half and address environmental impacts by eliminating mining and part of the large-scale processing associated with current oil shale technology, according to DOE.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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