Oil Shale has billions of dollars in value trapped in kerogen
Organic matter deposited over many millions of years in the ancient inland seas and lakes of North America is now trapped in layers of oil shale. That organic matter can naturally convert under the natural forces of heat and temperature in the earth as happened when buried under erosion from the rising Rocky Mountains and other geological shifts. Compressed organic matter, known as Kerogen naturally converted and has been a source of conventional and tight crude oil.
Industry has tried to make the wrong products
Big oil and others have spent billions of dollars in projects to exploit the huge deposits of organic matter that have not yet naturally converted to crude oil. These projects were designed to convert Kerogen nto synthetic crude for further shipment to oil refineries for processing into fuels. These efforts involved huge infrastructure, mining and capital-intensive projects. Heating the kerogen under the right conditions (in a way what mother nature does for free in producing conventional crude) produces a synthetic crude and Big oil and others invented many different pyrolysis designs for producing synthetic crude oil from the kerogen.
The synthetic crude would be sent to existing refineries for processing along with other conventional and tight oil crudes to yield primarily fuels, but also some petrochemicals. Big oil projects required tens of thousands of barrels per day to meet the processing requirements of existing refineries. The synthetic crude oil produced however, has a lower value than conventional crudes since it is higher in chemicals that are contaminants in conventional oil refineries and which damage the operations of conventional oil refineries. Processing this synthetic crude oil in existing refineries results in higher emissions, lower energy efficiency and much greater use of water. Processing of such synthetic crude is economically viable only under unique circumstances.