From the Associated Press today, via Businessweek.com:
A major defense contractor is selling technology to a large oilfield services company that hopes microwaves will someday become a key tool in unlocking the vast but hard-to-extract oil reserves in the West’s underground shale deposits.
Much as a microwave oven heats food, Raytheon Co.’s technology relies on microwaves to generate underground heat and melt a waxy substance in the shale called kerogen so that it can be converted into oil. Carbon dioxide heated and pressurized into a liquid form then is used to extract the oil from the rock and carry it to a well.
The world’s fifth-largest defense contractor isn’t the only company focusing on microwaves or other heat-generating technologies to address an engineering challenge that oil companies have tried to crack for decades — so far with no efficient, environmentally sensitive method that’s proven commercially viable, despite rising oil prices.
In a deal to be announced Tuesday, oilfield services company Schlumberger Ltd. is buying technology that Raytheon developed with Boston-based CF Technologies, which supplied expertise to extract oil using so-called “supercritical” liquid carbon dioxide.