Robin Beckwith, Staff Writer JPT/JPT Online

A vast energy treasure lies within an 18,963-sq-mile area of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming: an estimated 4.28 trillion BOE of in-place resources of oil shale, according to US Geological Survey (USGS) research geologist Ronald Johnson. He presented the new assessment at the 31st Oil Shale Symposium, held mid-October 2011 at the Colorado School of Mines.

In other countries, while far fewer oil shale resources are thought to exist, their presence is nonetheless formidable. China contains an estimated 333 billion BOE; Russia, 248 billion BOE; Democratic Republic of Congo, 100 billion BOE; Jordan, 90 billion BOE; Brazil, 82 billion BOE; Italy, 73 billion BOE; Morocco, 53 billion BOE; Australia, 32 billion BOE; and Estonia, 16 billion BOE. Israel indicated at the 30th Oil Shale Symposium that its resources may be as much as 250 billion BOE.

The CIA World Factbook estimates 2011 world proved reserves of crude oil at 1.47 trillion bbl. Total annual production of oil shale in the only three countries today where it is exploited for commercial use is 73% less than daily worldwide crude oil production of approximately 86.74 million B/D.

With oil shale estimates vastly overshadowing those for crude oil, why does oil shale remain a scarcely touched resource?

Read the entire article in the January 2012 issue of JPT.