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A Nuclear Renewable Oil Shale System for Economic Dispatchable Low-Carbon Electricity and Liquid Fuels

D. J. Curtis, C. W. Forsberg

Nuclear Technology / Volume 195 / Number 3 / September 2016 / Pages 335-352

Technical Paper /

First Online Publication:July 26, 2016
Updated:September 1, 2016

The authors propose the development of a Nuclear Renewable Oil Shale System (NROSS) to economically provide dispatchable electricity and liquid fossil fuels with low carbon dioxide emissions. High-capital-cost low-operating-cost nuclear, wind, and solar systems operate at full capacity. When excess electricity production causes low electricity prices, heat from the light water reactors (LWRs) and excess electricity from wind and solar systems produce shale oil.

Oil shale contains kerogen, a solid organic material trapped in sedimentary shale, which upon slow heating is converted into a high-quality light crude oil. Recoverable oil in U.S. oil shale deposits exceeds conventional global oil reserves. Oil shale is preheated using heat (delivered as steam) from LWRs to about 220°C and then further heated using electricity from the LWRs and the electric grid to raise shale temperatures to ~370°C to decompose kerogen into light crude oil, natural gas, and char.

The NROSS results in a zero-carbon electricity grid. The NROSS process of converting kerogen to light crude oil results in lower greenhouse gas emissions per liter of diesel or gasoline than other methods of producing liquid fossil fuels. The full use of capital-intensive generating assets minimizes total costs. Large oil shale deposits exist around the world, including in the western United States (Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming), China, and Europe (the Baltic states, Sweden, and western Russia).

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