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2 geologists bring global focus to local heavy oil and rock asphalt resources

The August 2009 issue of World Oil ® magazine features an article by two WKU geologists. Dr. Michael May and Dr. Kenneth Kuehn contributed “Renewed interest in heavy oils and rock asphalt in South Central Kentucky” which discusses the occurrence, properties, historical development and future opportunities for the heavy oil and rock asphalt resources in our region.

“It’s an exciting time for these so-called unconventional hydrocarbons. The price of crude oil today makes it good economic sense to re-evaluate these resources which primarily have been used only for paving roads in the past,” according to Dr. Kuehn.

Dr. May added, “There are some new technologies under development such as direct current heating that show tremendous potential. The asphalt in these rocks is nearly solid at normal temperatures, but when the rocks are heated, the asphalt flows like oil which could allow it to be pumped to the surface.”

Although there has been recent local media attention given to these resources, Dr. May and Dr. Kuehn hope that the international exposure from their article will invite more potential investors and innovators. “If the scientific and technological challenges associated with developing these hydrocarbons were easy ones, they would have been solved back in the 1970s in the era of the oil embargo,” noted Dr. Kuehn.

World Oil ® magazine, in publication for more than 90 years, is the leading oil and gas trade journal for petroleum exploration, drilling and production with a worldwide circulation of more than 35,000 readers. Archived articles are available online.

For information on the petroleum resources in south central Kentucky, contact Dr. Michael May at Michael.may@wku.edu or (270) 745-4555.

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