Western Slope Oil Shale Production One Step Closer

Shell Oil Company is nearing completion of its oil shale testing in Northwestern Colorado. Research has been going on for more than two decades, and by 2010 all the years of trying to extract oil from the rock in Northwestern Colorado should finally pay off.

The Shell Mahogany Research Project southeast of Rangely has been in operation since 1996, and officials are cautiously optimistic the project will turn from research to commercial production by the end of the decade.

The decision to go commercial is contingent upon three key factors, if it's environmentally sustainable and economically viable,. and the technology continues to work.

Following the oil shale bust in the 1980's many residents are gun–shy about the future of the energy industry in the Piceance Basin, the area of Western Colorado that's often referred to as the Persian Gulf of the United States. Government officials from the surrounding area say they've been kept in the loop along the way and are encouraged so far by what they hear.

The technology now used for extracting the oil and gas from the shale is called I.C.P. or the In–Situ Conversion Process. I.C.P. involves drilling holes and inserting electric heaters to gradually heat the rock over a long period of time until the oil and gas is released. This form of extraction can produce more than 10 times the resources per acre than the traditional technologies attempted in the 1970's.

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