Red Leaf Laboratory

The Red Leaf technology development staff uses the Red Leaf Laboratory and an integrated group of outside analytical facilities (partners) to characterize oil shale properties, model and experimentally verify Red Leaf oil shale processing technology. We characterize the oil, gasses, water, and spent shale produced by this technology and quantify the heat and mass transfer and chemical kinetics behavior of this technology. This work has resulted in steady improvements in our process and technology

The Retort Compression Test (RCT) equipment on the right is used to measure mechanical behavior of shale ore during retorting, with loads applied to simulate weight of various heights of shale in a tall retort. This includes settling and consolidation and resulting changes in gas transport. The tall reactor on the left is a 500 pound reactor, used to verify scale up from results in smaller reactors.

The initial focus of this work was on the ores and conditions encountered on Red Leaf’s Utah leases, and on development of technology to be commercialized on these leases. However, the same tools and resources are also used to understand related (and often very different) characteristics of other oil shale deposits, and adapt the Red Leaf technology to those deposits in support of our licensees and prospective licensees. Below is a list of the analytical tools and tests that Red Leaf conducts on a routine basis.

Modified Fischer Assay – ore richness
Mining Intercept Optimization
Ore Properties
– ore chemistry, mineralogy, elemental composition, microstructure,
organic carbon content, density, heat capacity, and moisture content
– Raw and spent shale specific surface area, including internal porosity
10-lb. Reactor Test – yield and product composition; kinetics
6” x 6’ Reactor Test – Direct-heat field conditions with adiabatic heat control
100-lb. Reactor Test – effects of time and temperature on yield and quality
500-lb. Reactor Test – samples for downstream testing; and testing of insulation layers
Retort Compression Testing – tests mechanical properties of shale, including subsidence
Oil Analysis – properties and composition
Gas Analysis – molecular speciation
Spent Shale Testing – leach testing, density, total organic content
Containment Layer Testing – gas diffusion and permeability
Custom Testing – water and gas clean-up, solids handling, oil handling, ore preparation

Some of this work is state-of-the-art but can be performed by outside laboratories, and so this is done within our group of analytical partners. Examples are oil analysis, Fischer Assay oil shale ore analysis, water analysis, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of ores, and detailed chemical and mineralogical analysis of ores. Much of our work, however, requires process simulation, and this work requires design, development, and operation of special equipment to create and measure all conditions and aspects of Red Leaf’s oil shale processing technology. This process research is constantly evolving and is all conducted by Red Leaf in our laboratory, with equipment that Red Leaf staff creates. Recent examples are described below.

The RLR reusable capsule architecture provides an opportunity to explore a much wider range of process parameters with the preferred direct heating downflow embodiment. Specifically, higher heating rates, shorter process cycle times, and different processing atmospheres are more feasible with this architecture than with previously investigated single-use earthen capsules.

Several RLR laboratory experimental retort systems were modified to allow exploration of this new freedom in operating parameters and are operational. Initial results indicate that it will likely be possible to produce much higher oil yields (on the order of a 20% increase in produced oil) from the same amount of oil shale, with higher oil density but still high quality oil, as compared to expectations from the demonstration project as designed in 2016.

Experiments underway are verifying these results, and are providing data to enable design of an initial commercial reusable capsule system.

Retort system area of RLR oil shale laboratory. Laboratory staff, right to left, Dr. James Bunger, Jerry Wiser, Damon Young, and Dr. Jeremy Pearson.

6 inch x 6 foot reactor. This system is applied to understand the heat and mass transfer behavior of a shale bed in a vertical column, as in a tall batch retort.

Ten pound reactor system. Two of these systems are applied to measurement of reaction rate characteristics.