Here's a nifty story about Shell building an underground ice wall to help them extract oil from shale in the Rocky Mountain states.

Oil-shale deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming have technically recoverable reserves of 500 billion to 1.1 trillion barrels of oil, according to a study last year by the Rand Corp. for the Department of Energy.

The midpoint of the Rand estimate - 800 billion barrels - is three times the size of Saudi Arabia's reserves and enough to meet 25 percent of current U.S. oil demand for 400 years.

Eager to tap into that possibility, Shell is spending $30 million to create and test a massive "freeze wall" that would extend from the surface to 1,700 feet below the ground. The walls would be 30 feet thick in a shape 300 feet wide by 350 feet long.

It is designed for a dual purpose: to keep groundwater from infiltrating Shell's oil-shale wells, and to prevent produced oil from contaminating nearby groundwater.

"We see this as our last major technological hurdle," said Terry O'Connor, a Denver-based Shell vice president in the company's unconventional resources division.

A perfect example of how oil supplies increase as the price of oil goes up. We'll discover all sorts of ways to thrive without oil long before we run out of it.

(HT: JV, BldgBlog, Subtopia.)

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