- $20 per Gallon
- Beginnings and Endings
- Book Update
- Carbon Nanotube Structural Composites
- Alt Fuels
- GM's Driverless Car Announcement
- Thermelectric and Thermionic Devices
- Green Auto Racing
- Of Mileage and Markets - the Politics of Fuel Efficiency
- Thought Provoking Green Vehicles
- Renewable Energy and Energy Storage
- Renewables and Finance
- Structural Nanotubes Now?
- Two Timely Books
- Advanced Biofuels USA
- Alternative Fuels Redux
- Altfuels Industry Directory
- Alt Fuels Manifesto
- Clean Energy Journal Biofuels Forum
- Fossil Fuels
- Tech & Scientific Developments
- Green Infrastructure & Environmental Initiatives
- UOP's New Biofuel Tech (Strangled In The Cradle II)
- Alternative Fuel Paradigms
- Alternative Fuel Paradigms, Part II
- STRANGLED IN THE CRADLE?
- Coal and Uranium Reserves Running Out?
- Nanotechnology and Alternative Fuels
- Electricity vs. Alt Fuels
- Energy Transitions and Industrial Policy
- Industrial Policty II
- In Situ Coal Gasification
- Commentary & Analysis
- Coal-to-Liquids Controversy
- STATE OF THE INDUSTRY - PART II
- The Heartland Institute's Environmental Journal
- The War of the Alcohols
- Transportation Revolutions Transposed
- Twin Peak - Coal & Uranium
- World Agricultural Forum's Biofuels Initiatve
- Alt Fuel Options
- The Next Bubble
- Finance & Markets
- Legislative & Regulatory
- Tech & Scientific Developments
- Weekly Roundups
- The Structure of Transportation Revolutions
- Bio Fuels
- Fossil Fuels
- Heat Engines
- Toward the Renewable Sources Power Grid Part I
- Alternative Fuels - Competitive Landscape
- The Great Illusion or Why the Hydrogen Highway Never Got Built
- The Great Illusion, Part II
- Lightweighting -Saving Fuel by Saving Weight
- Lightweighting - Part III
- Maritime Transport in an Energy Constrained Future
- Maritime Transport and Energy - Part II
- The Future of Aviation
Unconventional Fossil Fuels
We use the term unconventional fossil fuels in two senses. In the first instance, we’re referring to feedstocks or primary resources which are not being intensively exploited at present. These would include heavy oils, oil shale, coal bed methane, tight gas, deep gas, methane hydrates, and peat—all described elsewhere on this Website. The second definition applies to the use of a particular feedstock to produce fuels not normally associated with it. Examples would be gasoline and diesel fuel produced from coal or natural gas. Incidentally these separate meanings are not mutually exclusive. One can, for instance, produce gasoline, representing an unusual usage, from peat which is an unusual feedstock.
So what’s so special about unconventional fossil fuels, and why should investors monitor this emerging industry?
In toto, unconventional feedstocks contain several times the energy content of all remaining conventional fossil fuel resources. In the context of declining reserves of conventional fossil fuels, they provide industrial societies with a space of decades in which to effect an orderly transition to renewable resources. For this reason alone they will almost certainly be used on a massive scale in the years to come, and huge profits will accrue to those companies successful in capturing this market.
The other kind of unconventional, that which applies to unusual transformations and processing technologies, is almost equally important. If, for example, much more abundant coal is substituted for petroleum as a feedstock for gasoline, then a critical shortage of motor fuel may be averted in the future.
So ultimately unconventional fossil fuels are all about energy security. Collectively they provide the means for managing uncertainty regarding conventional energy resources.
The Business Case for Odd Fossils
Ultimately, each feedstock and each production process has to be considered separately, but, very generally, prospects for unconventional fossil fuels appear uncommonly good. Simply put, they’re the most abundant remaining source of hydrocarbons, and several well established technologies exist today for producing familiar products, i.e. gasoline, kerosene, and diesel, from several of these feedstocks.
So why aren’t more companies exploiting these resources and these technologies right now?
Until quite recently unconventional fossil fuels in either sense were simply not cost competitive. (Relentlessly rising prices for petroleum and natural gas are changing that today though.) Furthermore, mature extraction techniques scarcely existed for several of the unconventional feedstocks, including coal bed methane, oil shale, and methane hydrates. Finally, none of these resources or the products derived from them can be considered “green” although it must be said that diesel and gasoline produced from coal and natural gas tend to be cleaner burning than petroleum based motor fuels.
Still, we’re very bullish on unconventional fossil fuels, and we believe that they will play a considerably larger role in providing heating and motive power than bio-based fuels, the other major segment of alternative fuels.