Study seems to allow for oil-shale leasing on some federal lands

A new environmental study of oil shale on public lands appears to open the possibility of commercial leasing on federal lands with technology that’s already been proven on other lands.

The provision, part of a soon-to-be completed programmatic environmental impact statement on oil shale deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, is geared to continuing research on oil shale, Sherri Thompson, oil shale project manager for the Bureau of Land Management, told Club 20 on Thursday.

Nothing is final yet as the agency is working on issuing a record of decision on the study, Thompson said.

Several companies have experimented with oil shale on private land or with deposits elsewhere in the world.

The provision under consideration by the agency would allow for the commercial-production use of technology proven elsewhere to be employed on federal lands without requiring intervening steps of research, demonstration or development.

Several companies are now working on so-called RD&D projects on federal lands in Colorado and Utah, including Shell Oil.

“I see this as a potential opportunity,” Shell spokesman Tracy Boyd said, cautioning that the provision is new to Shell and that he needed more information.

Shell and Genie Energy are experimenting with techniques in Colorado to boil a petroleum-like substance, kerogen, from oil shale deep below the surface. Companies in Utah are studying ways to dig up shallow oil shale and heat it to release kerogen, and similar efforts are under way in other parts of the world, notably Estonia and Jordan. Significant deposits of oil shale have been found in other locations, such as Israel and China, but the richest deposits are in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

The preferred alternative of the environmental study called for the amount of land available for experimentation and development in Colorado to be reduced from the 346,000 acres envisioned by the George W. Bush administration to 26,000.


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