New technologies and research have once again provided more options for energy alternatives, such as oil shale. Previously, shale was extremely inaccessible and would cost any harvester more money than it would make, even in the face of rising petroleum and crude oil prices. In the face of current economic circumstances, shale will still fail to profit any present day harvesters; however, as crude oil plummets in supply, it will be necessary to make the shift to shale oil.
Shale is used to produce Kerogen, which is harvested from sedimentary rocks . Companies extract the kerogen from the rocks by using extreme heat, which is costly due to the high energy required. Shale oil and crude oil are comparable in almost every way except price (of sale and production). Both resources require extensive drilling and exhibit and similar caliber impact on the environment; however, the price difference between shale and crude oil discourages some companies, such as Shell, from harvesting it . The energy density of petroleum is 5.8 million BTU per bbl, which is common knowledge. In contrast, the energy density of shale oil has not been solidified. Using new technology, Shell expects shale oil to return 3-4 energy units for every energy unit consumed in harvesting .
Since kerogen and petroleum are both primarily comprised of saturated hydrocarbon chains, they are readily interchangeable for most applications. Given this versatility, big name companies such as Exxon have begun investing in its research and development . Given the need for alternative energy, political figures such as President Obama have begun to advocate for advances in technologies such as shale oil . Given the current circumstances, it will not become economically advantageous for companies to invest in shale oil until crude oil runs completely dry. In the meantime, engineers will be working towards stabilizing shale oil as a safe and reliable alternative to petroleum.