200 Year Supply Of Oil In Green River Formation

Mark Perry
updated | Author's Website

The Green River Formation, the world’s largest oil shale deposit, is located in a largely vacant region of mostly federal land on the western edge of the Rocky Mountains that includes portions of Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado (see map above).

Here’s an excerpt from testimony about the Green River Formation that was provided on Thursday by Anu K. Mittal, Government Accountability Office (GAO) Director of Natural Resources and Environment, to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology titled “Unconventional Oil and Gas Production: Opportunities and Challenges of Oil Shale Development“:

“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.”

MP: Surprisingly, this testimony got almost no press coverage, here’s one exception from CNS News.  Shouldn’t it be newsworthy that the U.S. has 1.5 trillion barrels of recoverable in  the Green River Formation, an amount even greater than this estimate of 1.392 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves in the entire world?  The GAO did issue a study in October 2010 that may have already identified the vast resources in the Green River area, so maybe this is old news and not worth reporting.    

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! The testimony also mentioned that industry experts estimate future development of Green River to be 15-20 years away, but it’s not clear if that’s due to federal regulatory issues or limitations of current drilling technology. 

Even if development is 15-20 years away, the vast untapped energy resources of Green River, the largest oil shale deposit in the world, provide additional support for the idea that “peak oil” is “peak idiocy” (Mike Munger’s explains here).    

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