‘A resource with staggering potential’ | VailDaily.com

‘A resource with staggering potential’

Dennis Webb

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A decision by the federal government could make northwest Colorado the central testing grounds for new oil shale technologies, which some argue could meet the nation’s energy demands for 100 years. The Bureau of Land Management has agreed to take a closer look at eight out of 20 proposals to test oil shale technology on public lands, and six of the projects would take place in northwest Colorado.Three of the six Colorado proposals to do research were made by Shell Frontier Oil & Gas. The bureau is considering letting Chevron Shale Oil Co., EGL Resources and ExxonMobil Corp. test their technology in Colorado.Both Exxon and Chevron were heavily involved in the oil shale boom of the late 1970s and early ’80s. Exxon left more than 2,000 people without jobs when it pulled out of its Colony Oil Shale Project in Parachute in 1982.Bureau Director Kathleen Clarke said oil shale could meet the nation’s current energy demands for more than 100 years.”Oil shale is a domestic resource with staggering potential,” she said.The next step in the evaluation process is an environmental analysis of the eight projects. Clarke said only those that are environmentally and economically sound will be allowed to proceed.Shell spokesperson Jill Davis said the company has shown in recent years its willingness to listen to the public and study the possible environmental and economic impacts of its work.”Certainly Shell is concerned about the cumulative impacts of our development,” she said.Dan Johnson, manager of government affairs for Chevron, said the company has operated in the Rangely area for more than 50 years, and has significant oil shale holdings in Garfield County.”One of the strong suits we think we bring to this is an awareness of the potential community impacts even on a research and development level,” he said.Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said the county will be involved in the bureau’s oil shale review process. He said it is important to look at oil shale as an energy source, but not to sacrifice the county in doing so.”We don’t want the boom and bust,” he said. “We want a nice, easy increase and slow decline.”Shell says it hopes its process will have fewer environmental impacts than traditional mining and heating of shale. The process involves heating the shale underground and then drilling wells to bring oil to the surface.They will also test a patented process to recover nahcolite – basically baking soda – mixed in with oil shale, and then develop the oil shale. If it works, it would open up more federal lands with richer shale resources to development, Davis said. Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism