January 24, 08
Schlumberger to use RF Technology to Extract Oil from Shale

Schlumberger, the oil-field-services giant that has acquired microwave technology intended to free petroleum from oil shale, won’t bring the technique to western Colorado immediately.

Most likely, the technology will be first employed in heavy-oil wells in Canada, said Rod Nelson, a Schlumberger vice president in Houston.

Schlumberger is unlikely to use the technology to become an oil producer, Nelson said, so the company probably won’t seek leases on federal land in northwest Colorado. It could, however, work with another company that would lease the land, Nelson said.

“We work for oil companies,” he said. “There are other paths we’re going down.”

Schlumberger purchased the technology from Massachusetts-based defense contractor Raytheon, which developed it in concert with CF Technologies, a Boston-based company.

None of the companies released financial details, but Raytheon said it could collect royalties on the process for years.

The Green River Formation of western Colorado, eastern Utah and southwest Wyoming contains the equivalent of an estimated 1.8 trillion barrels of crude oil, enough, Raytheon said, to meet current U.S. demand for 250 years.

“Using it in the field is still a ways off,” said John Moses, president of CF Technologies. “I would hope that within a year or two we would be looking at going into the field.”

Work so far in the laboratory has been “very promising,” he said, with high recovery of the petroleum, or kerogen, trapped in the rock.

“I can tell you that in the lab, we’re getting basically all of it out,” Moses said.

How that recovery rate will hold up in the field remains to be seen, he said.

“On a very large scale, we’re hoping for 60, 70 or 80 percent” recovery, he said.