Think that drilling is the only way we source oil?
Recent breakthroughs have ushered in a new wave of oil extraction techniques.
Over time what used to be unconventional techniques morph into conventional ones. If you think about it drilling on a rig offshore in the middle of the ocean doesn’t sound that conventional, does it?
The actual definition for conventional oil are those techniques that are easier and cheaper to produce than other methods.
However, due to technological advances and demand, we’re now able to drill offshore cheaply and effectively. We know about offshore drilling, but what about some of the other unconventional extraction techniques?
Oil sands top the list. They’re made up of extremely viscous crude oil trapped in sandstone, and excavation takes an army of bulldozers mining the area to dig it up. Even the refining process is difficult, as these sands generally contain sulfur and other metals that mess with the process.
Tight oil is another unconventional oil deposit that requires hydraulic fracturing to extract. It’s basically just petroleum stuck in shale or tight sandstone, and yes, fracking is technically considered an unconventional way to source oil.
Along the lines of tight oil is oil shale, which is fine-grained sedimentary rock that contains a ton of kerogen. From this kerogen we can extract hydrocarbons and other substances to create fuel.
We also have thermal depolymerization, which deals with extracting energy from existing waste such as petroleum coke. It imitates a process occurring in nature where organic and inorganic compounds get broken down using heat and pressure. The result? Energy!
Lastly, there’s synthetic fuel processes, which converts coal and natural gas into unconventional oil. It’s a complex process, but what you need to know is this technique was pretty widespread in the first half of the 19th century–before we figured out how to drill for oil.
Total synthetic fuel production exceeds 240,000 barrels per day, and China is developing a few large-scale plants to convert more coal to liquid fuel.