There is no commercial oil shale development in the United States today despite extensive and well known deposits and periodic flurries of interest. In the current energy situation the oil shales of the Green River Formation in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are attracting a great deal of interest as a possible secure domestic source of synthetic crude oil. High grade oil shale deposits containing a potential 600 billion bbl of shale oil occur in an 11-million-acre area of the three states. The tempo of predevelopment activity has accelerated during the last year and the prospects for a domestic shale oil industry in the foreseeable future appear good.
Four private industrial groups recently have announced tentative plans for development of private oil shale lands in Colorado. The Colony Development group has operated a semi-works scale facility north of Grand Valley, Colorado, at 1,000 tons per day with room and pillar underground mining techniques and a surface retort using the TOSCO II system. Union Oil Company has done prior experimental mining and retorting on their lands which adjoin the Colony property. Superior Oil Company has announced their intention to explore the lower oil shale zones by an inclined shaft to determine the feasibility of a multi-mineral development producing nahcolite and dawsonite as well as shale oil in the northern part of the Piceance basin. Occidental Petroleum Company has successfully operated an experimental in-situ retorting process north of DeBeque, Colorado. A group of 16 companies has joined in a 30-month program to develop and test a new retorting system.
The United States Department of Interior has been involved in research and investigation of the Green River oil shales and the technology for their development for many years. It has now initiated a prototype program of leasing for development by private industry of a small part of the approximately 80% of the oil shale resources which are Federally owned. Four years of study and planning and the completion of a six-volume Environmental Impact Statement have preceded this action. If this program is successful the production from the six Federal leases combined with production from private lands could reach an estimated 400,000 bbl per day by the early 1980s and one million bbl per day before the close of that decade.
The first lease offering under the prototype program of a single 5,100-acre tract in northwestern Colorado was on January 8, 1974. Eight offers were received with a high bid of $210,305,600 submitted by a combination of Standard Oil Company of Indiana and the Gulf Oil Corporation. This appears to be the highest per acre bid ever received by the Federal government for the leasing of any mineral deposit. The total of all bonus bids received was $641,126,463.09.