Estimate of oil shale in western Colorado increases |

Estimate of oil shale in western Colorado increases

Associated PressDenver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado The U.S. Geological Survey now estimates the Piceance Basin in western Colorado has about 50 percent more oil shale than it thought 20 years ago.USGS said Thursday it revised its estimate to about 1.5 trillion barrels of in-place oil shale resources after looking at new areas that previously had too little data for research.The USGS study didn’t try to estimate how much oil might be recoverable.The Piceance (PEE-ance) Basin contains one of the thickest and richest oil shale deposits in the world, but companies have yet to find an economically viable way to bake the rock and extract oil from it. Commercial production could be at least a decade away.The Department of Energy has used an estimate that the Green River Formation, which covers parts of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, including the Piceance Basin, contains up to 1.8 trillion barrels of in-place resources, with about 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil.Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released a written statement saying the new USGS estimate demonstrates the need for research and development.The American Petroleum Institute agreed and said it was disappointed that Salazar in February scrapped plans to expand a program offering leases for oil shale research, development and demonstration projects, reversing a decision made in the last days of President George W. Bush’s administration.”Developing more of our nation’s oil and natural gas would generate much-needed revenues for federal, state and local governments, spur new job growth and increase America’s energy security,” the institute said.Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for Salazar, said Salazar wants to ensure taxpayers get a fair return from future research and development leases.”That’s why Secretary Salazar set aside the Bush administration’s last-minute oil shale leasing proposal, which would have locked in low royalty rates, and is instead gathering input from the public and industry on what a second round of oil shale research and development leases should look like,” she said.Shell Exploration & Production Co. has three existing research and development leases in Colorado and has been performing oil shale tests in western Colorado since the mid-1990s.Shell spokesman Tracy Boyd said the updated estimate from USGS further emphasizes the significance of oil shale in the western U.S.”We continue to think if we proceed with our research and development, we can produce this resource in a manner that is economically viable and environmentally responsible and socially sustainable,” Boyd said.The USGS study on the Piceance Basin also found an estimated 43.3 billion tons of in-place nahcolite, a mineral that produces large amounts of carbon dioxide when heated in oil shale processing.

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