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The worldwide oil shale resources are extremely large. As an example, the calculated recoverable oil from just the Green River Formation in the tri-state area of Colorado-Utah-Wyoming is as large as the estimated ultimate total conventional oil production from the entire world. In addition there are significant resources in other parts of the USA and in other countries.
Despite the great potential, the pace of western oil shale development took a general downturn in 1982 because of a combination of factors led by an uncertainty concerning short to intermediate term pricing for crude oil, a lesser demand for petroleum products, and increased projected costs for development. An example is Exxon's announcement that the Exxon/TOSCO multi-billion dollar project would be discontinued and most of its support equipment sold.
Other western developers that are progressing with their projects include Union Oil of California in the Piceance basin of Colorado and Geokinetics Inc. of the Uinta basin of Utah.
In the eastern part of the county, Paraho decided not to move its project to Kentucky unless additional financial support could be obtained.
On the international front, Brazil and Morocco are actively developing oil shales in their countries, and feasibility and background studies are being conducted in other areas of the world.
The industry, from a future commercial development standpoint, and the government, following its policy to promote high-risk, long-range, high-return energy projects, should accelerate their efforts in oil shale research and development. A lead time of 3 to 5 years is necessary from the planning stage to the first barrel of shale oil production. Using a 10,000 bbl/day plant as a minimum goal, modular development of several competing processes and technologies should be conducted in the near future. These plants should be modular in nature, so that the more favorable processes could be replicated to provide for future demand.
The U.S. Department of Energy current oil shale support efforts are pointed toward process technology research rather than monetary support of industry pilot projects.
Federal government support for commercial oil shale development is a function of the Synthetic Fuels Corporation which provides price support guarantees to companies who are willing to build plants which can produce a minimum of 10,000 bbl/day of shale oil.
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