Colorado’s Piceance Basin Overflowing with Oil Shale Resources
U.S. Geological Survey officials said in a news release today that oil shale resources in Western Colorado's Piceance Basin are more than 50 percent larger today than they were in 1989.
"For the first time in 20 years, we have an updated assessment of in-place oil shale in the Piceance Basin of Colorado," said Secretary Ken Salazar, whose Interior Department is the parent of the USGS. "The USGS scientific report shows significant quantities of oil locked up in the shale rocks of the Piceance Basin. I believe it demonstrates the need for our continued research and development efforts."
Unfortunately, Secretary Salazar's comments above are perceived by this former spin doctor -- and son of a retired independent petroleum geologist -- as a poorly-veiled effort to lower expectations about the area's potential as a source of oil and natural gas:
Development of oil shale has significant technological and environmental challenges and no economic extraction method is currently available in the U.S. Therefore it is unknown how much of the assessed in-place (total amount present) resource is recoverable.
In a statement issued today, officials at the American Petroleum Institute were more optimistic about the new assessment which increases by 53 percent the resource estimate for Piceance Basin oil shale:
“This new assessment increases USGS’ previous resource estimates of Piceance Basin oil shale by more than 50 percent, to over 1.5 trillion barrels. We agree with Secretary Salazar that the new resource estimates demonstrate the need for continued research and development efforts in order to produce this vast resource. That is why we were disappointed that the Interior Department recently delayed issuing a second round of oil shale research and development leases. 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."
To review a copy of the latest USGS assessment of the Piceance Basin, click here (pdf).
FYI: This blogger will be traveling to Western Colorado to visit The Williams Companies Piceance Basin operations as part of an API-sponsored tour April 13-14. Following that tour, I will offer reports about what I learned.