Shell calls it quits on oil shale project

In a major setback to the effort to develop oil shale in the United States, Shell is closing down its research and development project in Rio Blanco County.

The company was the biggest player in oil shale in Colorado, holding three federal research, development and demonstration leases.

Shell spokeswoman Carolyn Tucker said the decision reflects an evolving energy market since Shell began its oil shale research in 1981.

“We plan to exit our Colorado oil shale research project in order to focus on other opportunities and producing assets in our broad Global portfolio,” she said in an e-mail. “Our current focus is to work with staff and contractors as we safely and methodically stop research activities at the site.”

In an interview, she said employment at Shell’s research site has ranged anywhere from 10 to 50, depending on activity levels.

“It’s not going to be an abrupt exit,” she said.

Shell has obligations and projects it needs to wind down, including reclamation and decommissioning work required by the Bureau of Land Management, she said.

Chevron, which also received a research and development lease from the BLM, decided early last year to divest itself of the lease, saying it wanted to focus on other priorities.

Just last month, Shell announced plans to sell its oil and gas project in Routt and Moffat counties. That followed an earnings decline and a review of Shell’s various oil and gas projects in the Americas, followed by a decision to keep those with the most growth potential.

At that time, Tucker said that decision had no bearing on its oil shale project, saying it involved a separate business that’s still in the research stage.

But she said this week’s decision results from another review project looking specifically at Shell’s oil shale assets, which also include holdings in Jordan and Canada.

“A number of factors went into the decision. Based on those many factors we’ve chosen to put those resources into the other oil shale assets and not in Colorado,” Tucker said.



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