Friday, June 7, 2013

The Green River Formation -- Another Bakken? In Three Western US Basins, Including The Uinta Basin

A reader alerted me to this story. Thank you.

In an earlier post, an oil and gas expert was asked "what the next Bakken would be." He did not have a good answer, although sugggesting the Three Forks would have been my answer also.

However, a reader suggests that the Green River Formation is likely to be the next Bakken. At wiki:
The Green River Formation contains the largest oil shale deposits in the world. It has been estimated that the oil shale reserves could be equal up to 3 trillion barrels of shale oil, up to half of which may be recoverable by shale oil extraction technologies ("cooking" kerogen).
However, the above quoted estimate of 'recoverable' oil is in doubt, and challenged, by many renowned geologists because the technology for converting rock into an oil from the Green River shale deposit has not been developed, and it has never been profitably implemented at any significant scale.
The Green River Formation is found in three separate basins around the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah:
  • an area in northwestern Colorado east of the Uintas
  • a larger area in the southwest corner of Wyoming just north of the Uintas known as Lake Gosiute
  • the largest area, in northeastern Utah and western Colorado south of the Uintas, known as Lake Uinta
An ABC News story from last year, with the headline, "An American Oil Find That Holds More Than All Of Opec":
A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that if half of the oil bound up in the rock of the Green River Formation could be recovered it would be "equal to the entire world's proven oil reserves."
Both the GAO and private industry estimate the amount of oil recoverable to be 3 trillion barrels. 
It's a very, very long article, for an internet article with lots of information. My understanding is that much of the Green River Formation is under land controlled by the federal government (BLM):
An auditor told Congress last week that the Green River Formation in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado contains about as much oil as the "entire world's proven reserves," making it the "world's largest deposits of oil shale."

The formation is largely — about 75 percent — on federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the states, making it possible for the government to extract funding from the shale formation almost as well as the companies that may extract the oil. 
A couple of points.

First, although the shale oil may be BLM-constrained, it is there if "push comes to shove."

Second, it is nice to see the "three trillion original oil in place." It gives "credibility" to reports that the Bakken could be a trillion-bbl-OOIP-reservoir.


I did have the Uinta Basin linked at the sidebar at the right, but not the Green River Formation. I will add the Green River Formation to the "Other Formations" at the sidebar.

For newbies:
Just as the Bakken Formation is found in the Williston Basin, the Green Formation is found in the Uinta Basin (as well as two other basins in the Wyoming, Colorado, Utah area).


  1. this formation in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming is mainly on Federal land. Will the current Administration issue a permit in the next 2 decades.. I have my doubts..

    1. I agree. For mineral owners, development cannot come soon enough. For environmentalists, etc., the longer the better. Everyone has different timelines.

      However, the other night, biking, I thought about KOG or some such Bakken-centric company saying they have 14 years of drilling inventory. That sounds like a lot, but 14 years is not very long for a successful corporation, which can go for decades. So, 14 years of drilling activity in the Bakken may sound like a long time, but it will go by quickly. The Bakken boom in North Dakota began in 2007 (albeit slowly) but that makes the current ND Bakken boom about 6 years old. Another decade will go by quickly.

      Although I won't see it (two decades before we see permits), children and grandchildren probably will.

      At the national levels (Washington, DC; Saudi Arabia) ten years and twenty years is not all that far out; that's how far out they are doing strategic planning (in the USAF, our strategic planning began at least 20 years out, for example), and if there is that much oil in the Green River, Saudi has to be concerned. Our technology will only get better while we are waiting to develop that formation.

      But yes, I agree, with you. I doubt we will see significant activity in this BLM-constrained area for quite some time.