February 3, 2012
DENVER (AP) — The federal government’s new plan for oil shale development on public lands would keep activity off thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive areas, with new leases initially being issued strictly for research on how to commercially produce oil from oil shale in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.
The George W. Bush administration had made almost 2 million acres available for potential oil shale development and 431,000 acres for tar sands development, but federal officials took a new look after conservation groups filed a lawsuit in 2009 alleging the government hadn’t fully reviewed possible environmental impacts.
A new draft environmental impact statement released Friday says the preferred plan now is to make 35,308 acres in Colorado, 252,181 acres in Utah, and 174,476 acres in Wyoming available for oil shale research. Also, 91,045 acres in eastern Utah would be available for activities related to tar sands.
Together, the total is around a half million acres. Areas with wilderness characteristics, core sage grouse habitat, areas of critical environmental concern, and the Adobe Town area in Wyoming are among those that would be off limits.
The public has until May 4 to comment on the proposal.
The Bureau of Land Management estimates the Green River Formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming has 1.2 to 1.8 trillion barrels of oil resources, but not all may be recoverable.
Getting petroleum-like substances out of oil shale, which is first mined, is tougher than pumping oil out of traditional wells, and companies haven’t found an economic way to do it in the U.S.
Oil shale contains kerogen, which must be subjected to temperatures of more than 750 degrees before it can produce oil. Studies have indicated up to about 500 gallons of water may be needed to produce one barrel of oil from it, which could be an issue in the dry West, the Government Accountability Office has said.