Garfield County supports BLM plan on oil shale
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Garfield County commissioners are supporting a proposed Bureau of Land Management plan for oil shale development in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.Commissioners got an early look at the BLM’s alternative draft management proposal and voted unanimously this week to support it, The Daily Sentinel reported Friday.The proposal would cut 421 square miles from the proposed 3,125 square miles allocated for possible oil shale development in the three states, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. The biggest area removed would be the 182-square-mile Adobe Town area in Wyoming.Wilderness study areas and areas of critical environmental concern are also being excluded, Jankovsky said.Garfield County got an advance look at the alternatives the BLM is developing because it has cooperating-agency status. BLM spokesman David Boyd told The Daily Sentinel he couldn’t confirm Jankovsky’s information but said the draft alternatives and recommendation could be different from what’s now envisioned, based on cooperating-agency feedback.The Associated Press left a message seeking comment from BLM officials Friday.The BLM hopes to release its draft plan to the public around the end of the year.Government and industry officials estimate that an estimated 1 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels of oil – up to three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia – are locked in rock in parts of western Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Roughly 800 billion barrels are considered recoverable.A plan opening the 3,125 square miles of federal land in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado to oil shale development was approved in 2008. State and federal permits and environmental reviews would have to be completed as individual projects are proposed.The oil is really kerogen, a precursor to oil that wasn’t buried deeply enough or processed naturally long enough to complete the transformation to oil. Turning the shale to oil requires heating it above ground after extraction or in the ground in a process called “in situ,” which means “in place.”Efforts to squeeze the oil out of the shale in the Rockies stretch back decades. An oil shale boom in Colorado in the early 1980s went bust when oil prices dropped and government subsidies dried up. People still refer to “Black Sunday,” May 2, 1982, when Exxon Mobil Corp. shut down a $5 billion project near the West Slope town of Parachute, throwing 2,200 people out of work.Jankovsky said the county and the BLM favor leaving as much acreage available for leasing if oil shale companies have a breakthrough. Details of how much electricity and water would be needed, as well as the environmental impacts of extracting oil from rock are being worked out.”I’m hopeful that with some of the R&D things that are going on, there are going to be less environmental impacts and that we can provide oil to our nation that’s from our country,” he said.