As the price of oil continues to fluctuate
unpredictably and nears the brink of depletion,
pursuing unconventional oil supplies, such as oil
shale, oil sands, heavy oils, and oils from biomass and
coal, has become increasingly attractive. Of particular
significance to the American way is that our continent
has significant quantities of these resources.
Tapping into these new resources, however, requires
cutting-edge technologies for identification, production,
processing, and environmental management.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and
fellow Battelle-managed national laboratories are
pooling their expertise to deliver these solutions.
Collaboratively, the laboratories are integrating their
research and technologies for industry leaders.
While tackling the problem as a team will give the
United States a competitive edge in leading the way
toward global solutions, researchers recognize that
it is all for naught if these resources are tapped at
cost to the environment.
Fortunately, PNNL is home to some of the
world’s leading environmental experts. One team,
led by Wally Weimer, the Laboratory’s industrial
market sector leader for the oil and gas industry, is
working hard to understand the opportunity and
responsibly engage in unconventional oil recovery.
“Industry has the ability to transition our
discoveries and innovations into working solutions,” Weimer said.
“It’s very exciting to see how government-sponsored
research can come together for industrial clients to
address an issue that’s important to all of us.”
The basic research has been under way for years,
and PNNL has emerged as a leader for addressing
several environmental aspects of this project,
including the protection of surface water
and groundwater resources. As it turns out,
unconventional oil resources tend to locate near
areas that are water-limited, creating an enhanced
need for protection of these resources. Another
area of environmental concern is carbon emissions.
The development and utilization of unconventional
resources will release carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere; these emissions over time could
potentially impact global climate and air quality.
Researchers at PNNL are using predictive computer
modeling to understand these effects and to
develop technologies that can stop the
problems before they start.
A rescue is being attempted.
With the collaboration among
its peer national laboratories,
PNNL plans to be part of
the solution that solves the
problems with new sources
for oil…and at the same
time protects the environment.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.