Unconventional Oil


Unconventional oil is petroleum produced or extracted using techniques other than the conventional method. Oil industries and governments across the globe are investing in unconventional oil sources due to the increasing scarcity of conventional oil reserves. Unconventional oil and gas have alreadymade adentininternational energy linkages by reducing US energy import dependency.

Unconventional Oil

What is ‘Unconventional Oil’

A type of petroleum that is produced or obtained through techniques other than traditional oil well extraction. Unconventional oil production is commonly seen as more costly than conventional oil production, less efficient, and is likely to cause more environmental damage. This is because unconventional oil is considered “heavier” and requires more complex procedures to process. However, the ever-increasing global demand for petroleum, combined with its shrinking supply, has more firms turning to unconventional oil. Sources of unconventional oil include synthetic oil, oil sands, and shale formations.

Explaining ‘Unconventional Oil’

Historically, the exploration and production of oil and natural gas focused on the sources that were easiest to access: pools of oil and gas that could be drilled into and pumped to the surface. This type of production is considered “conventional”. Unconventional sources of oil do not flow near the surface and require different methods of extraction. Shale oil, for example, is produced by using steam or acids to draw oil out of low permeability rocks.

Further Reading

  • Unconventional gas and oil development in the United States: Economic experience and policy issues – academic.oup.com [PDF]
  • Environmental reviews and case studies: Addressing the societal costs of unconventional oil and gas exploration and production: A framework for evaluating short … – www.tandfonline.com [PDF]
  • Unconventional oil and gas extraction in South Africa: water linkages within the population–environment–development nexus and its policy implications – www.tandfonline.com [PDF]
  • Unconventional energy sources: Safety impacts, opportunities, and economic challenges – www.tandfonline.com [PDF]
  • The implications of the declining energy return on investment of oil production – royalsocietypublishing.org [PDF]
  • Financial market pressure, tacit collusion and oil price formation – www.sciencedirect.com [PDF]
  • A study on the future of unconventional oil development under different oil price scenarios: A system dynamics approach – www.sciencedirect.com [PDF]
  • Does Russian unconventional oil have a future? – www.sciencedirect.com [PDF]