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Recoverable oil in Green River under Colorado and Utah might be equal to the current worldwide proven reserves

The astounding news just keeps on rolling in.  Here is another name to remember for energy issues – Green River.

Testimony to Congress this week from OMB’s Anu K. Mittal, Director, Natural Resources and Environment, indicates there are tremendous opportunities and challenges from oil shale underneath western Colorado and eastern Utah.

The written testimony is in UNCONVENTIONAL OIL AND GAS PRODUCTION – Opportunities and Challenges of Oil Shale Development

The Green River Formation has an astounding amount of oil shale.  From the report’s summary:

Tapping the vast amounts of oil locked within U.S. oil shale formations could go a long way toward satisfying the nation’s future oil demands. Oil shale deposits in the Green River Formation are estimated to contain up to 3 trillion barrels of oil, half of which may be recoverable, which is about equal to the entire world’s proven oil reserves.

More details:

Increasing domestic oil production. Being able to tap the vast amounts of oil locked within U.S. oil shale formations could go a long way toward satisfying the nation’s future oil demands. The Green River Formation—an assemblage of over 1,000 feet of sedimentary rocks that lie beneath parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming—contains the world’s largest deposits of oil shale. USGS estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil, and about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions. The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, estimates that 30 to 60 percent of the oil shale in the Green River Formation can be recovered. At the midpoint of this estimate, almost half of the 3 trillion barrels of oil would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire world’s proven oil reserves. The thickest and richest oil shale within the Green River Formation exists in the Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado and the Uintah Basin of northeast Utah.

Some context:

Proven oil reserves worldwide are 1.39 trillion barrels. Venezuela has 0.297 trillion, Saudi Arabia has 0.264 trillion, and the U.S.has 0.019 trillion.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of proven reserves, which is the same definition I’ve read elsewhere:

Proved reserves are those quantities of petroleum which, by analysis of geological and engineering data, can be estimated with a high degree of confidence to be commercially recoverable from a given date forward, from known reservoirs and under current economic conditions.

USGS estimates Green River contains 3.0T (trillion) barrels, with Rand estimating between 0.9T and 1.8T recoverable. The GAO testimony takes a midpoint of the range, or 1.35T possibly recoverable.

Thus, the guess at recoverable oil from Green River (1.35T) is within rounding differences of worldwide proved reserves (1.39T).  If the technology issues and other challenges can be resolved, that would be 5 times the reserves in Saudi Arabia and 71 times the U.S. reserves.

Mark Perry compares that to current U.S. consumption.  This field would supply the U.S. oil needs for 200 years.  Two centuries.  He points out:

But with current U.S. daily oil consumption running at about 19.5 million barrels, the staggering amount of Green River reserves would by itself supply domestic oil consumption for more than 200 years!

There are significant challenges, technology, logistics, infrastructure, and especially environment.  As technology improves and if prices increase/remain stable, those challenges will be solved.

Amazing.

Hat tip: Carpe Diem, of course.

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One thought on “Recoverable oil in Green River under Colorado and Utah might be equal to the current worldwide proven reserves

  1. Pingback: We will never run out of oil. Peak oil #1 « Outrun Change

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