Eight proposals advance in BLM oil shale program

Jan. 19, 2006
Five applicants submitted eight oil shale development and demonstration proposals that are eligible for further consideration, the US Bureau of Land Management said.

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 19 -- Six applicants submitted eight oil shale development and demonstration proposals that are eligible for further consideration, the US Bureau of Land Management said.

The six companies are Chevron Shale Oil Co., EGL Resources Inc., ExxonMobil Corp., Oil-Tech Inc., Oil Shale Exploration LLC, and Shell Frontier Oil & Gas, which submitted three applications that BLM accepted.

The Department of the Interior said that the eight proposals were among 20 submitted in response to a June 2005 call for nominations for 160-acre RD&D leases on public land in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

The next step will be to complete an evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act of the eight proposals, according to BLM.

"Each of these proposals shows potential for advancing knowledge of oil shale recovery technology, evidence of economic viability, and adequate means for managing the environmental impact of oil shale development," BLM Director Kathleen Clarke said.

"NEPA analysis will further ensure that oil shale development on federal lands is conducted with environmental and economic responsibility," she indicated.

Chevron Shale Oil, EGL, ExxonMobil,and Shell Frontier's nominations are in Colorado, while Oil-Tech and Oil Shale Exploration's are in Utah.

Each nomination identifies the 160 acres allowed in the call for RD&D proposals and a contiguous area of 4,960 acres to be reserved for a preferential right to convert to a future commercial lease after additional BLM reviews.

BLM said that six of the proposals involve in-situ retorting, which does not permanently modify the land surface. It said that NEPA analysis will help the agency, which manages 261 million surface acres mostly in 12 western states, determine whether current technologies will result in less surface disturbance than earlier methods.

Clarke emphasized that BLM will not award an RD&D lease unless it is certain that the technology used will be environmentally acceptable. States and local communities will continue to be part of the evaluation process, she added.

BLM said it has also initiated a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) to support development of commercial oil shale and tar sands leasing on public lands, as required under the 2005 energy policy act.

Information about the PEIS is available on the project web site, http://ostseis.anl.gov/. To the extent possible, information available from the RD&D leasing program will be incorporated into the PEIS, BLM said.

House Resources Committee leaders applauded the BLM's action. "By tapping the energy we have right here on taxpayer-owned lands, America can decrease our reliance on foreign oil and fight back against [the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries'] stronghold on energy prices," said Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), the committee's chairman.

"Oil shale research and development is a critical component in the future of domestic oil production, and by increasing our domestic supply we ultimately decrease our dependence on foreign sources of oil," said Energy and Minerals Subcommittee Chairman Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.).

BLM said that the US holds significant oil shale resources underlying 16,000 sq miles and holding an estimated 800 billion bbl of recoverable oil. More than 70% of American oil shale is on federal land, primarily in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, it said.

Contact Nick Snow at [email protected].