Oil Shale


Some of the richest known deposits of oil shale lie in basins within the Green River Formation along the border of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

In an area that provides critical habitat and migration corridors for elk and mule deer and natural habitat for cutthroat trout, oil shale is being explored as a potential energy and fuel source, despite past failures to extract oil shale at a commercially-viable level. Oil shale development requires an incredible amount of energy because large amounts of rock must be heated to extremely high temperatures to release the oil.

Despite estimates that commercial oil shale development would consume huge quantities of water, cause significant air pollution and destroy thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have issued leases for sites in Colorado to be used for oil shale research and development.

Technologies already in place for heating fluids deep under the ground to dissolve other substances, such as nahcolite, or baking soda, would be one method adapted to bring oil shale to the surface through special production well bores.

Farmers, ranchers and environmental groups are concerned about the impacts that oil shale development could have on western communities, wildlife, agriculture, water resources and the climate and are urging the BLM to take a slow cautious approach to oil shale technologies that have not yet been proven to be technically feasible, commercially viable or environmentally sustainable.

Oil Shale by state
FLIGHTS: Oil Shale
Colorado - Piceance Basin – Oil Shale Development
State: Colorado
Region: Western Slope
Description: For 100 years, energy companies have attempted to unlock the large, domestic oil shale resources of northwestern Colorado’s Piceance Basin. For more than a quarter of a century, Shell conducted laboratory and field research on its In Situ (in-ground) Conversion Process to recover kerogen from oily rock formations. In 2013 Shell halted its operations in Colorado and in 2016, Exxon pulled out of its oil shale operations... read more
Colorado and Utah - Red Leaf Research Development
State: Utah
Region: Utah/Colorado
Description: The western United States holds some of the world’s richest deposits of oil shale. The states of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah together represent more than a third of the earth’s supply.  Red Leaf Resources, Inc. is currently field testing technology to bring this fuel to the market... read more