September 20, 2005
Print Page

Contact: Heather Feeney, (202) 452-5125

Nominations for Oil Shale Research Leases Demonstrate Significant Interest in Advancing Energy Technology

In response to its announcement of an oil shale research, development, and demonstration program, the Bureau of Land Management has received 19 nominations for parcels of public land to be leased in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The program, announced in June, advances the development of America’s oil shale to meet the nation’s energy demands.

The BLM sought nominations of parcels of public lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming for research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) leasing that will advance efforts to boost domestic oil production and respond to growing interest in oil shale from high-technology groups. The agency’s oil shale program received additional mention in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which President Bush signed into law in August.

Ten nominations were received for parcels in Colorado. Parcels in Utah are included in eight applications, with one application received for land in Wyoming.

“We recognize the importance of making public lands available to promote all forms of energy, including oil shale, but in a way that provides for prudent site selection and sound environmental management,” said Tom Lonnie, the BLM’s Assistant Director for Minerals, Realty and Resource Protection. “Congress also recognized the great potential in oil shale, and the response to our call for lease nominations shows that the time is right to move ahead with the program.”

An interdisciplinary team will consider the potential of each nomination to advance oil shale technology; the team will also consider economic viability and environmental effects and then make recommendations for awarding leases. Depending on the quality of the proposals, the BLM may award one or more leases in each of the three States.

Representatives from the three States (Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming), and the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense have been invited to participate on the team, as have BLM staff members from the affected States. The team will begin reviewing nominations in late October. In addition to furthering development of oil shale resources, RD&D leasing will assist the BLM in developing appropriate regulations for commercial oil shale leasing, which the Energy Act calls for beginning in 2007.

The United States holds significant oil shale resources underlying a total area of 16,000 square miles. This represents the largest known concentration of oil shale in the world and holds the equivalent of 2.6 trillion barrels of oil. More than 70 percent of American oil shale is on Federal land, primarily in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The Energy Policy Act directs that public lands in these three States be made available for RD&D leasing within six months of the measure becoming law.

The BLM initiated an oil shale development program in 2003 in support of President Bush’s National Energy Policy, which seeks a diverse supply of affordable energy for American families and businesses. The Energy Policy Act establishes that oil shale, tar sands, and other strategic unconventional fuels should be developed to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported oil.

The BLM manages more land -- 261 million surface acres -- than any other Federal agency. Most of this land is located in 12 Western States, including Alaska. With a budget of about $1.8 billion, the Bureau also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the U.S., giving the BLM a central role in implementing the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Acting as the steward of numerous energy resources – coal, oil and gas, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind, and biomass – the BLM carries out a multiple-use mission, which is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Last updated: 10-20-2009