BLM inventory finds resources heavily restricted

Dec. 4, 2006
Just 3% of federal onshore oil and 13% of onshore federal gas are currently available under standard lease terms, the US Bureau of Land Management said on Nov. 28.

Just 3% of federal onshore oil and 13% of onshore federal gas are currently available under standard lease terms, the US Bureau of Land Management said on Nov. 28.

Access grows to 46% for oil and 60% for gas with additional restrictions, including “no surface occupancy,” the Department of the Interior agency said. But its inventory of 99 million acres of federal onshore oil and gas resources found 51% of the oil and 27% of the gas closed to leasing. The study, which was required under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, expands on one that was published in 2003 under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2000.

BLM said the 11 areas inventoried in the latest study include six new oil and gas basins in Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, and the eastern US in addition to five basins studied in 2003. It said the new inventory covers an area containing an estimated 21 billion bbl of oil and 187 tcf of gas, or about 76% of total onshore federal oil and gas resources.

“This is a more complete and accurate picture than our previous inventory,” said BLM Director Kathleen Clarke. The 2005 EPA directed that the new inventory consider conditions of approval attached to drilling permits that producers must follow when developing leases-i.e., restrictions such as, “no drilling during seasonal migrations of sensitive species.” The 2003 inventory only considered restrictions in the actual leases.

Seeking changes

Producers said they would use the study’s results to press for more streamlined and less burdensome permitting procedures.

“This report clearly demonstrates the distinction between what is available and what is accessible,” said Mike Linn, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and president of Linn Energy in Pittsburgh. “There is enough onshore oil and natural gas available in the United States to significantly alleviate the burden on American consumers while strengthening our energy security,” he said. “However, these public resources are not accessible because regulatory barriers and antiquated policies prevent the responsible development of these resources.”

IPAA said impediments include federal agencies delaying permits while revising environmental impact statements, litigation on resource management plans designed to delay access, and unreasonable permit requirements that prevent production. In many cases, oil and gas producers are paying the costs of environmental impact statements, which the government is supposed to pay. This can cost producers hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Washington-based trade association said.

“Now that both the public and our elected lawmakers know these resources are available, we need to work to make sure they are accessible,” Linn emphasized.

BLM said it prepared the new report, Scientific Inventory of Onshore Federal Lands’ Oil and Gas Resources and the Extent and Nature of Restrictions or Impediments to Their Development-Phase II Cumulative Inventory, with help from the US Geological Survey, US Forest Service, US Department of Energy and its Energy Information Administration, and other coauthors, contributors, and reviewers.

Printed copies can be obtained from BLM’s public affairs office at 1849 C Street, NW, MS-LS 406, Washington, DC, 20240, or online at