January 14, 2009

Contact: Matt Spangler, 202-452-5130

Link to BLM Oil Shale Web Pages

BLM Announces Second Round of Oil Shale R, D, and D Leases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to spur development of technologies that could lead to the production of billions of barrels of domestic oil supply, the Bureau of Land Management announced today that it will solicit nominations for a second round of oil shale research, development, and demonstration (R, D, and D) leases.

The BLM published a notice in today’s Federal Register soliciting nominations for parcels to be leased for oil shale R, D, and D leases in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. This follows a similar solicitation in June 2005 that resulted in the issuance of six oil shale R, D, and D leases in Colorado and Utah in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

“Broadening the scope of research into oil shale technologies will help accelerate the development of these vast Western resources, and as a result lessen our dependence on foreign sources of energy,” said James Caswell, BLM Director.

Oil shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock containing organic matter from which oil may be produced.

The BLM’s oil shale program could result in the addition of up to 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from lands in the Western United States. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. holds more than half of the world’s oil shale resources. The largest known deposits of oil shale are located in a 16,000-square mile area in the Green River formation in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Federal lands comprise 72 percent of the total surface of oil shale acreage in the Green River formation.

R, D, and D leases in this round will be issued for 10-year terms and with maximum sizes of 640 acres. The six leases issued in Colorado and Utah were for 160 acres, but they also contained an additional  preferential right area of 4,960 acres for conversion to a 20-year commercial lease once commercial production levels had been achieved and all requirements had been met. Since offering the original R, D, and D leases, and completing an analysis of oil shale potential and availability on public lands, the BLM has determined that an R, D, and D lease of 640 acres is likely to provide reserves sufficient to support a commercial operation.

To encourage the use of new technologies, the BLM will only consider applications that demonstrate new technologies not currently being tested on the initial round of R, D, and D leases. Entities that currently hold these leases need not submit additional applications for new leases.

The R, D, and D leases are just one of several steps designed to harness these vast energy resources. In November, the BLM finalized regulations governing the commercial leasing of oil shale resources on Federal lands, and in September, the agency finalized a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement setting aside approximately 1.9 million acres of public lands in the three states for potential commercial oil shale development.

The BLM manages more land – 256 million acres – than any other Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.

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