Raytheon attempts extract oil from shale
By Jay Fitzgerald
Raytheon Co. and CF Technologies think they've developed a breakthrough technology that could help ease the nation's energy supply woes.
Waltham-based Raytheon and Hyde Park-based CF last week said they've jointly come up with a new process that would allow companies to tap into huge underground U.S. shale reserves that can be turned into oil.
The technology entails transmitting radio frequencies into the ground, heating up hydrocarbons in shale and then injecting them with critical fluids that force oil toward wells.
The process is cheaper and more efficient than current technologies used to extract oil from shale, Raytheon said. With oil prices now hovering near historic highs, the technology could help make shale extraction more economically viable for oil companies.
There is an estimated 2 trillion barrels of oil in the nation's shale reserves, located mostly in the Rocky Mountain region. Canada also has huge reserves of tar sand, which Raytheon believes its technology could extract oil from as well.
Raytheon said the technology was an offshoot of prior work with CF in defense-related projects.
"We took a (weapons) systems approach to the energy problem," said John Cogliandro, Raytheon's head engineer on the shale project.
Terri Campbell, a portfolio manager specializing in energy at Boston's Eastern Bank, said recent price spikes in crude oil have made shale a more affordable investment for the oil industry.
She said extracting oil from shale or sand tar wouldn't solve the long-term energy crisis. But it would help delay the depletion of oil resources across the globe, she said.