Can the Monterey Shale free the US from mid-east oil imports?

Granted that the question is a bit disingenuous since oil in relatively fungible and if we don’t buy from Qatar or Kuwait, someone else will. It’s a little like saying that you only buy from *reputable *heroin dealers.

The point is that we import a little over 1.5B barrels of OPEC oil per year based on the total for 2012. The Monterey Shale has over 15B barrels of estimated reserves. Add to that conservation efforts and the increasing switch to cheap natural gas (from albeit controversial fracking, which would also be involved here) and does this seem like a real possibility?

Side note: Would you have guessed this even 5 let alone 10 or 20 years ago? The future is some weird shit. :slight_smile:

And when shale oil is depleted, then what? Of course, there’s the monumental ecological disaster extracting that oil, but that’s beside the point.

I think North America is on the way to becoming a net exporter of oil in the near future. We will probably still import oil because of the logistics of transporting and refining oil around the world, but it means we won’t be dependent on middle eastern oil producers.

How many increasingly expensive and ecologically damaging “new oil extraction” techniques have been touted as freeing us from the Mid-East/OPEC (you do realize those are not the same thing, right?) have come along?
No, adding capacity ALWAYS results in demand growing to exceed the new capacity - be that electricity, water, gas, oil, or most anything else.

No, nothing is going to “free” us from wanting and doing whatever it takes to get, that obscenely expensive oil.

If you go to my OPEC link, it lists the countries the oil comes from, so yes indeed, I do understand the difference.

But I think you solved your own conundrum there didn’t you? These extraction techniques ARE much more expensive, therefore the cost of oil and it’s byproducts will continue to rise and the incentive to find alternative energy sources will remain strong - no?

Granted it prolongs the transition and means that we continue pumping CO2 into the environment that much longer, but let’s face it, is that really going to be a primary consideration for the developing world? There are still trillions of tons of coal left to be mined for example and that is probably the worst form of fossil fuel to burn. So from a carbon footprint point of view, oil almost looks like a good deal, as does nat gas.

Of course now we’re getting into Great Debates territory, but look at it this way. If something like the MS can ease the transition to alternative energy, IOW, provide a high cost but accessible source of oil such that alternative energy is still vigorously pursued, that could ultimately benefit the entire planet.

“Obscene costs” are not the same as “monetary costs”

GD avoided for now.

Forget the oil shales-California could increase its oil production very quickly-by allowing drilling in the Los Angeles basin. That area hasn’t been drilled in years (environmental restrictions), and it likely contains huge amounts of oil. It was drilled in the 1920’s, using old shallow well technology-today, we have vastly improved drilling technology.
Also, are the Kettlemen Hills Reserves still set aside for the US Navy? That was a huge reserve (in the 1920’s)-it was the source of the “Teapot Dome” scandal of the Harding Administration.

Don’t know why you would focus on the Monterey Shale. North America will be independent because of numerous formations as well as because of declining consumption. Production from the Monterey Shale takes a big back seat to the Permian, Bakken, Eagle Ford, Utica, Woodford, Mississippi Lime and others. I put it more along the lines of the Niobrara or Tuscaloosa Marine. It is a big resource, and is the source rock for some of the very large historical California oil fields like Kern River, Midway-Sunset, Belridge (were talking the source of some really world class oil fields).

However, it isn’t really being produced to any large scale now, and that is because it really hasn’t been figured out how to produce it economically. Occidental Petroleum is probably the largest producer in the play; you could probably learn more from reading their presentations. My understanding is that it is a deep highly faulted, complex resource that will take a good while to figure out. It isn’t just some simple issue of us needing higher oil prices to make an adequate rate of return. It’s really just not all that great of a play right now. Massive geologic study is needed.

At some point it becomes cheaper to convert coal into liquid fuel than it does to try to recover from these non-conventional sources.

Not really. The production history of the Los Angeles Basin is not really that different from other major oil areas in the U.S. Take the Long Beach Field or Wilmington Field for examples. These fields have undergone significant secondary recovery operations with waterfloods and steam floods from the 1960s continuing to today. I’m not sure if they are good candidates or not, (I suspect they are) but I would guess that these would be future CO2 flood candidates once CO2 capture and sequestration projects become cheaper.

Sure, but in reality you would have to take into account the CO2 capture and sequestration costs, which probably doom that project economically.

We could increase our available totals by not exporting ~3.5M barrels a day, significantly up from historical totals over the last ten years:

It’s my understanding that most of the oil intended to by handled by the Keystone XL pipe is destined for export as well. Those refineries export 60% of their output - which makes all the arguments in favor of the pipe on the basis of US oil independence a bit nonsensical.

Ban North American oil export, except for limited quantities of specialty products, and we’d dent our imports without changing any other factor.

I am going to guess that most of that export is refined product not crude (although it is all lumped together as exports with no breakdown between crude and refined product)

There are many breakdown tables on the same site, if you want to analyze the exports.

You are not reading your graph correctly. Notice that it say Exports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products. Only about 1% of the exports are of crude oil. The remaining 99% is stuff like NGLs (propane, butane, etc) and refined products. See this, also from the EIA, for a more detailed breakdown of exports. The Crude Oil exports would primarily be stuff right along our border with Canada that just makes sense for transportation logistics to travel outside of the U.S.

You are of course treading on Great Debate territory, but I will say that you are not looking at this correctly either. First of all, since the idea is increasing imports from Canada (a foreign country) the idea would of course be North American energy independence and not U.S. Second, and obviously more importantly, you are complaining about a transportation logistics problem. If all of the crude oil is going into the U.S. Gulf Coast refining complex, obviously you can see that this area would be oversupplied relative to the rest of the U.S. If it is cheaper to import oil from Nigeria (for example) to the U.S. East Coast refineries than it is to transport refined products from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, wouldn’t it make sense to export the refined products and keep importing foreign oil to the East coast? The trade balance is improved either way as are the U.S. tax revenues and other periphery benefits like jobs.

How is the U.S. going to go about banning North American exports? You expecting to start a war with Canada or something? U.S. exports of oil already are effectively banned. For one thing, there are no vessels currently in existence capable of transporting large quantities of crude oil for export while remaining Jones Act compliant. This would require a Presidential waiver to override. However, soon (within 5 years) we will look to begin exporting crude oil (for the already mentioned transportation logistical issues). The DOE will conduct a study on the relatives pros and cons of allowing exports and will come up with more pros than cons. This will follow the very similar LNG export study conducted last year. At that point we will start exporting crude oil. It is inevitable and a good thing.

Teapot Dome is in Wyoming:

Eh? As far as I can tell our consumption continues to rise (other than a brief drop during the recession). I know that graph is for the US, but I can’t imagine Canadian and/or Mexican consumption dropping so much that North American oil consumption drops overall. Am I missing something? Or are these declines in consumption just projections?

I think there’s a tad bit of confusion here. Shale oil is normal oil held in shale rock- it takes unconventional extraction methods to get it out and to the surface. The Bakken formation in S. Dakota is shale oil.

Oil Shale is something else- it’s shale with a great deal of kerogen bound in the rock. This takes significant heating to remove the oil from the rock, and some further processing from there. The US sits on truly staggering amounts of oil shale- something like 1.5 trillion barrels equivalent in the Green River Formation in Wyoming alone. (world proven reserves of regular oil are 1.3 trillion barrels).

The catch is in the processing- I imagine that if oil gets expensive enough, oil shale will become much more interesting, like tar sands and shale oil have.

Unfortunately, the terminology is still somewhat confused, although I agree what you describe is close to becoming the convention. For example, the wikipedia page on “shale oil” is clearly describing oil shale:

Further confusing things here, the Bakken isn’t actually a shale oil play, although it is often described as such. With shale oil, you’re drilling in the actual petroleum source rock, which is not the case in the Bakken. There are two layers of oil-bearing shale, but there’s a sandstone layer between them and a dolomite layer below the lower shale which acts as the reservoir. The wells are actually being drilled in those two reservoir layers, not the shale source rock itself. The Bakken is what would be called an unconventional reservoir and “tight oil” because of the low permiability and porosity of the reservoir rocks, but it’s still technically conventional oil.

Thanks. I wasn’t aware of the difference. But I’m just dyslexic enough that I know I’m going to end up using these interchangeably. May the internet gods smite me when I do.