Jan 1, 1978
Examines the problems and prospects for the commercialization of oil shale from surface retorting, and concludes that government support of such an effort is unlikely to result in a viable industry in this century, although oil shale is second only to coal as a U.S. fossil fuel reserve. Alternative technologies, such as modified in situ (in place) processes, are promising but data on them are not abundant enough to permit reliable estimates of commercial-scale costs; government decisions on their commercialization should await the completion of further technical tests and an independent definitive plant design. The study deals mostly with economic and institutional constraints. The cost of shale oil, estimated at about 50 percent above the current world oil price, is the principal barrier to commercialization of surface retorting. The most serious institutional problem is the availability of water in the semiarid shale regions of the United States.