Fast Talk: Chevron’s Underground Researcher

Don Paul

Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Chevron
San Ramon, California

Don Paul, 61, a former research geophysicist who manages Chevron’s R&D partnerships, has teamed up with Los Alamos scientists to use chemistry to convert oil shale into synthetic crude oil.

“In the future, you are going to need every molecule of oil that you can get from every source, oil shales to biofuels. Energy independence is not the issue. What you want is energy security.

When it comes to oil shale, in the old days you used brute-force digging. That takes way too much energy. We had to figure out how to construct an oil facility that operates entirely underground. The goal is to convert the oil shale into crude oil, then pump that to the surface.

It’s going to take time. These efforts won’t be commercially viable until after 2020 because of the technology required, and the science and research involved. This is not a business for startups.”