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NFCRC Tutorial: Oil Shale

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The most extensive deposits of oil shale are found in what use to be large shallow lakes and seas millions of years ago, where subtropical, stagnant conditions were favorable for the growth and accumulation of algae, spores and pollen. The organic solids in oil shale rock are a wax like material called kerogen. The kerogen is extracted by heating in retorts in the absence of air where the kerogen decomposes forming oil, gas, water and some carbon residue. Production of gasoline or jet fuel from the oil produced from the oil shale, however requires more extensive processing than most petroleum feedstocks. The shale oil also contains more nitrogen than petroleum does which if left in the fuels produced from the shale oil would result in significant NOx emissions.

The U.S. has significant deposits of oil shale concentrated in Colorado and Utah.