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cover16Story by: Darwin Campbell,African-American News&Issues

HOUSTON – One hundred million years ago, a wide swathe of sea cut the North American continent into eastern and western portions. As sea levels lowered, this sea receded, leaving in its wake inland seas and lush grasslands. The Tertiary-period organisms that lived and died here became fossilized.

As millions of years passed, these remains were subject to high temperatures and gravitational pressure and were converted into petroleum. But the conditions that created liquid petroleum in other areas of the world weren’t quite as strong or long-lasting. These conditions resulted in oil shale.

Texas and Shale

Today, the shale revolution is sweeping the country and revolutionizing energy and the economy, with Texas and the Eagle Ford Shale leading the way.  Texas is the nation’s top oil and natural gas producing state and leads the country in energy technology and policy.

Shale Offer New Economic Possibilities

Blacks and other minorities who own land in these areas and those looking for a career in oil and gas industry stand to make great gains from the development of this technology.

That is the topic of discussion at the second quarter 2014 general body meeting of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, Houston Chapter on June 26 at the ExxonMobil Building.

Industry Expert Frank Adamek, P.E., will talk about “The U.S. Shale Play and the many Opportunities for Minorities.”

Adamek is Executive Chief Engineer in charge of drilling and production for GE Oil & Gas. He also has served in this role since 2007, and has been with GE Oil & Gas and its various legacy companies for almost 40 years.

American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) is a national, nonprofit association of more than 1,700 energy professionals and business owners within 44 chapters in seven regions throughout the United States.

Texas is home to a number of prolific oil and gas plays, including the Eagle Ford Shale, Permian Basin, Barnett Shale, Haynesville/Bossier Shale, and Granite Wash.

The Eagle Ford Shale has the potential to become the most active oil and gas play in North America, with approximately 235 drilling rigs currently running.

Operators forecast that the play will continue to develop for decades to come.

Understanding the Shale Oil Process 

According to the Oil Shale and Tar Sands PEIS information center, the term oil shale generally refers to any sedimentary rock that contains solid bituminous materials (called kerogen) that are released as petroleum-like liquids when the rock is heated in the chemical process called pyrolysis.

Oil shale was formed millions of years ago by deposition of silt and organic debris on lake beds and sea bottoms. Over long periods of time, heat and pressure transformed the materials into oil shale in a process similar to the process that forms oil; however, the heat and pressure were not as great. Oil shale generally contains enough oil that it will burn without any additional processing, and it is known as “the rock that burns”.

It can be mined and processed to generate oil similar to oil pumped from conventional oil wells; however, extracting oil from oil shale is more complex than conventional oil recovery and is more expensive.

The oil substances in oil shale are solid and cannot be pumped directly out of the ground. It must first be mined and then heated to a high temperature; the resultant liquid must then be separated and collected. An alternative but currently experimental process involves heating the oil shale while it is still underground, and then pumping the resulting liquid to the surface.

Recently, a new extraction technology has been developed called “fracking,”. It uses pressurized water-chemical-sand mixtures to fracture shale layers, releasing their trapped oil and gas reserves.

Shale is a rock type defined by its high clay content and thin layers that flake apart. Layers without much organic content appear grey, tan, or a number of other colors depending on their mineral makeup, while shales bearing organic compounds like oil look blackish.

The organisms were once living creatures, perhaps marine algae like those that supplied the world’s largest oil reserves.

At some point, they became intermixed in clay-rich mud.

Today, these rock beds hold so much organic material, converted into oil and gas, that the U.S. may soon exceed Saudi Arabia’s production volume.

AABE provides these groups a pathway to learn more about the energy industry through activities such as mentoring, education, community service and networking.  It also works to create sustainable communities by linking energy professionals, executives, and entrepreneurs with students and other members of the community.

The organization is actively involved in increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in energy related fields. By doing so, we help our nation address a critical need and a challenge to our economic vitality in the world market.

The Houston Chapter of AABE is one of eight chapters that comprise the Southwest Region of the organization. We welcome professionals from all energy and energy-related disciplines (oil, gas, electricity, nuclear, renewable, water, government, technology, and energy services). Some of the companies our membership represents include: ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Schlumberger, GE, Marathon Oil, CenterPoint Energy, EP Energy , Shell Oil Company, Weatherford, KBR, SIMEMA, LLC, Intelliscient, Omni Pipe, PINTRACO, Atlantic Petroleum, Morgan Stanley, Texas Southern University, Reliant Energy, Exelon, KOSMOS Energy, Cameron & others.