What is Oil Shale?

Oil Shale is a general term applied to a fine-grained sedimentary rock containing kerogen which is a fossilized mixture of insoluble organic material that, when heated, breaks down into crude oil and natural gas. Chemically it consists of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulphur and forms from compacted organic material. This rock has not been geologically buried for a time sufficient to produce conventional hydrocarbons. Oil shale began formation millions of years ago by the deposition of silt and organic debris on lakebeds and sea bottoms. Oil shale rich in organic content is dark in colour and close to black. Lean oil shale is almost caramel in colour.

The kerogen in Jordanian oil shale organic material that consists primarily of marine algae and marine micro-organisms deposited in vast quantities 65 million years ago, when most of Jordan was an extended, relatively shallow, tepid warm ocean plateau extending north from the paleo-shoreline (which was located roughly where Wadi Rum is now). Normally, kerogen-rich shale is the primary source rock for conventional hydrocarbon oil and gas systems like those found in Saudi Arabia and the North Sea.