BLM awards two Colorado oil shale RD&D leases

The US Bureau of Land Management approved two oil shale research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) leases in Colorado to ExxonMobil Exploration Co. and Natural Soda Holdings Inc.

The leases are in Rio Blanco County 35 miles southwest of Meeker.

Two adjacent 160-acre tracts were awarded to test in-situ technologies that heat solid oil shale to convert it into recoverable petroleum, said an Aug. 30 announcement from BLM’s White River field office.

BLM said each lease was for a 10-year term, and includes a 5-year extension provision. Each lease also allows for an additional 480 acres to be converted to a 20-year commercial lease once the lessee completes its work, passes additional reviews, and meets all requirements, BLM said.

BLM said that National Soda Holdings mines sodium bicarbonate by injecting hot water underground to dissolve the baking soda in a solution that it brings to the surface. Its research proposal calls for using this solution mining technique to remove sodium bicarbonate found with the oil shale, and then injecting a heater into the ground to unlock the liquid petroleum from the shale.

ExxonMobil proposed fracturing horizontally drilled wells, filling the fractures with an electrically conductive material, and using electricity in the fractures to heat the oil shale into recoverable liquid petroleum, the US Department of the Interior agency continued.

The proposals stemmed from a November 2009 call for nominations, which followed an initial round of nominations in 2007 under which 6 RD&D leases were issued, BLM said.

Contact Nick Snow at

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