Roulston Energy Partner on Oil Shale Development in the United States and Abroad

May 6, 2013

We all know of the shale oil boom in the United States that has produced an explosion in domestic oil production primarily on private and state lands and helped to decrease our dependence on oil imports. The shale oil (and shale gas) revolution is a testament to what happens when people are allowed to explore for oil resources. People have known for decades that the Bakken and Eagle Ford contain oil, but the only reason these areas are so prolific today is because people can access the resources. Oil shale, on the other hand, is sedimentary rock that contains kerogen, a solid organic material. When the kerogen is heated to high temperatures, it releases petroleum-like liquids that can be processed into liquid fuels. Shale oil resources are spread over much of North America, but oil shale is concentrated primarily on federally owned lands in the western United States in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. The USGS estimates our oil shale resources to be even greater than our shale oil resources. The United States has 2.6 trillion barrels of oil shale in-place, with about 1 trillion barrels that are considered recoverable under current technological conditions. Before leaving office, the Bush administration offered to lease these resources for research and development that could lead to commercial development but they were withdrawn by the Obama administration. Estonia, for example, produces 90 percent of its electricity generation from oil shale while China is the world’s largest producer. Current oil prices should be high enough to encourage the development of the technology to bring those resources to market if only access were not restricted. Technically recoverable oil shale resources in the United States could provide Americans with 140 years of oil shale at current usage rates. To read the whole article please visit

Thomas J. Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research (IER). In this capacity, Pyle brings a unique backdrop of public and private sector experience to help manage IER’s Washington, DC-based staff and operations. He also helps to develop the organization’s free market policy positions and implement education efforts with respect to key energy stakeholders, including policymakers, federal agency representatives, industry leaders, consumer entities and the media. To learn more about the Institute for Energy Research and their mission please visit

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