IOGCC: Oil shale leasing regulations to be released soon

Government officials soon plan to issue commercial oil shale leasing regulations although it will be a number of years before any leases are granted, a spokesman for DOI said Nov. 16.

Paula Dittrick
Senior Staff Writer

SANTA FE, NM, Nov. 17 -- Government officials soon plan to issue commercial oil shale leasing regulations although it will be a number of years before any leases are granted, a spokesman for the US Department of the Interior said Nov. 16.

Foster L. Wade, DOI deputy assistant secretary, said the regulations could be issued within days. He spoke during an opening session at the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission annual meeting in Santa Fe, NM.

After rules are issued, Wade said any lease proposals would have to outline the technology to be used. That technology remains in the research and pilot development stage. Many within industry say commercial production is likely at least a decade off.

Once the technology is proved and oil companies submit lease proposals, Wade said another 4 years of environmental reviews and permits from federal and state agencies would be required before any projects are approved.

Oil companies have said they would like to see the regulations issued so they can better plan the logistics and economics of oil shale development projects.

"The large companies need the regulations to go to their boards," for future project approval, Wade said. "The smaller companies have to raise venture capital…. Companies understand the regulations can change in the future."

The oil shale in the US that has been studied the most is in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah (OGJ, Oct. 20, 2008, p. 22).

Governors react
Meanwhile, separate from the IOGCC meeting, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has written a letter to Bureau of Land Management Director James Caswell saying BLM should wait for the technology development before issuing oil shale leasing regulations.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal also has questioned whether BLM should outline oil shale regulations before the technology is proven. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman advocates that federal officials finalize the rules this year.

BLM has said the Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the regulations.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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