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The Salt Lake Tribune: Shell looking to revive oil shale industry Energy

Company is exploring new technology for extracting in the Uinta Basin

By Robert Gehrke
Article Last Updated:10/23/2006 11:25:53 PM MDT

WASHINGTON – The president of Shell Oil Co. said Monday the company is hopeful that oil shale, plentiful in Rocky Mountain states, could be one component of America’s future energy security.

“Conventional oil and gas, the easy stuff, as we call it in the industry, is running out,” said company president John Hofmeister. “What will be enough to provide energy security in this country? Well, we can start by developing the oil shale of Colorado.”

Shell is doing oil shale research in Colorado, but there is believed to be more than a trillion barrels of oil and gas trapped in the rock in the basin that spans eastern Utah and western Colorado.

The Uinta Basin and western Colorado went through an oil shale boom in the 1970s when oil prices peaked, but the industry went bust and most companies abandoned it. Some have tried to revive the industry and are trying to produce oil using the old technology, which involves mining tons of rock and heating it to extract the oil.

Shell is trying to develop a technology that would drill into the rock, heat it and then pump out the oil.

Hofmeister said the company is still on track to make an investment decision sometime around 2010. “And so if we develop the oil shale and we have the conventional oil and gas, is that enough to provide energy security?” Hofmeister asked. “Shell doesn’t think so. . . . We need some additional supplies of energy.”

Hofmeister spelled out a series of energy solutions, from natural gas and off-shore oil, to hydrogen cells, new forms of ethanol, and gassified coal. All of those, in addition with new conservation and reduced greenhouse gases, will be needed to provide energy security, he said.

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