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........ published in NEWSLETTER # 56

by Professor C.E. Snape, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow (U.K.)

Oil shales are broadly defined as petroleum source rocks containing sufficiently high contents of organic matter (above ca 10-15 wt.%) to make utilisation a possibility. Like coal, the world's reserves of soil shales are vast being many times larger than those proven for crude oil. Although, the growth of the oil industry saw the demise of the oil shale retorting in most countries, oil shale utilisation has attracted renewed attention since the early 1970s as a source of transport fuels and chemical feedstocks due to the long term uncertainties over crude oil supplies. Indeed, the past 15 years has seen the development of a number of innovative process concepts, such as fluid-bed pyrolysis and hydroretorting which have enabled considerably higher oil yields to be obtained than by the classic retorting procedures. The facts that most of the organic matter is insoluble in common organic solvents (kerogen is the generic term used to describe this insoluble matter) and the organic matter occurs in a mineral matrix pose considerable problems for detailed characterisation. Indeed, the problems are much more acute than for coals where the mineral concentrations are much lower. Nonetheless, the organic geochemistry and analytical chemistry communities have made considerable strides in the application of gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance and a number of other advanced analytical methods to assess the structure and biological origins of kerogens. Therefore, it was considered timely to bring together leading scientists from the analytical/geochemistry and chemical engineering, communities involved in fossil fuel research for this NATO Advanced Study Institute held in Akcay, Turkey (July 1993).

The aim of the book (NATO ASI SERIES C455) was to provide comprehensive coverage of oil shale chemistry and conversion technology emphasing the key role oil shale could have in the future for helping to meet the world's increased demand for transport fuels and chemical feedstocks. The major themes of the ASI were: (i) composition and geochemistry encompassing microscopy, advanced spectroscopic and pyrolysis techniques, biomarkers and mineral matter and (ii) conversion including static and fluid-bed retorting, hydropyrolysis, co-processing, gasification, beneficiation, upgrading strategies and environmental considerations. The reviews in the first two sections of the book reflect these major themes. In addition to the review lectures, over 25 research contributions were presented as posters at the ASI which contributed greatly to the success of the scientific programme. A number of these have been included in the third section of the book.
Reference books: C36, C455, E76,

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