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New guidelines on shale oil have been released by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. This new guidance is of particular interest to energy conscious Coloradans and generally to the nation as a whole.
The plan is a government formal Record of Decision, (ROD) initially proposed in late 2012. The plan makes 678,000 acres public land in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming available for research, demonstration and development projects. The plan also designates approximately 130,000 acres of land in Utah, for tar sands leases.
Not to anyone’s surprise, this plan is a reduction in available lands first proposed under the Bush Administration in 2008. Those opposed have cited a wide variety of generic environmental concerns to the initial land usage proposal.
Of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, Colorado took the brunt of the land usage reduction. The initial lands available in Colorado were to be 360,000 acres. Friday’s ROD now allocates only 26,000 acres.
The ROD states in part:
The Proposed Resource Management Plan (PRMP)/PEIS study area for the oil shale resources
includes the most geologically prospective resources of the Green River Formation located in the
Green River, Piceance, Uinta, and Washakie Basins and encompasses approximately
3,540,000 acres of which 2,270,000 acres are federally owned.
For this planning initiative, the BLM continues to employ the standard it developed pursuant to
the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which is to focus on the most geologically prospective resources,
as defined by grade and thickness of the deposits. The most geologically prospective oil shale
resources in Colorado and Utah have been determined by the BLM to be those deposits that yield 7
25 gallons (gal) of oil shale per ton of rock (gal/ton) or more and are 25 feet (ft) thick or greater.
In Wyoming, where the oil shale resource is not of as high a quality as it is in Colorado and
Utah, the BLM has identified as most geologically prospective oil shale resources, those deposits
that yield 15 gal/ton or more of oil shale and are 15 ft thick or greater.
According the the Department of Energy (DOE), the total oil shale resource in the United States could potentially exceed 6 trillion barrels of oil. Specifically, Colorado’s Piceance Basin contains the most concentrated hydrocarbon deposit (oil shale) on Earth.
The DOE finds the following regarding Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming:
Colorado contains about 1,300,000 barrels of oil per acre on average.
Utah also contains significant quantities of oil shale in the Uintah Basin – about 800,000 barrels per acre.
Wyoming’s oil shale is contained in the Washakie and Green River Basins in the Southwestern part of the state. Wyoming has about 500,000 barrels of oil per acre.
The recently released report flies directly in the face of President Obama and his 2012 reelection platform which touted an, “all of the above,” energy policy. Instead of expanding and moving to ensure that America is less reliant on foreign oil, the current policy reduces available resources.
Even a recent Harris Poll conducted in March 2013, found that Americans don’t want higher taxes on energy.
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