An oil shale action plan for the 21st century

Public discussion of oil shale development in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming has been on the back burner for some time. Many of us are old enough to remember Black Sunday — the day in 1982 when Exxon shut down the Colony Oil Shale Project. No one wants a return to that boom and bust era.

But many of us believe oil shale in the three states is a resource that should be developed to help make the nation energy secure for decades.

The National Oil Shale Association (NOSA) proposed a plan of action at a Congressional Field Hearing in Grand Junction on June 1. Congressmen Bishop of Utah and Tipton of Colorado led the delegation that heard testimony from oil shale and natural gas experts.

NOSA recommended Congress and the Federal Administration include the oil shale in the three states in the nation’s strategic energy plans and approve the formation of an advisory board to recommend how best to develop the vast resource for the benefit of local economies and the nation.

NOSA members believe the building of small demonstration plants is the responsible next step in the development of the resource.

There are many differences in what is being proposed now than what was going on in the 1970s and ’80s. At that time, there was a large federal government program advocating accelerated commercial production of shale oil. The nation had experienced an OPEC oil embargo, and people were forced to wait in lines for gasoline at service stations across the nation. President Carter and Congress reacted by providing financial incentives to companies for production of domestic unconventional fuels.

Oil and gas and mining firms rushed to Colorado and Utah to try to meet the challenge and take advantage of the federal program. Unfortunately, at the height of the euphoria, oil prices dropped from about $40 to near $10 per barrel, the government lost interest, and the boom ended.

The community of Battlement Mesa was built with private funding to accommodate thousands of workers and their families that were expected to be needed for a commercial industry only to become a ghost town until it became a retirement mecca. Communities in the area were left with improved infrastructure, but a reduced tax base to support it. Jobs were lost, and real estate prices tanked.

The recovery to normalcy took a decade.

During the ensuing years there was little interest in oil shale, but small oil companies in Texas began to use precision directional drilling and selective fracturing (now called fracking by adversaries of its use) to get oil and gas from oil reservoirs thought to be uneconomic.

As a result, the nation is on track to become the largest oil producer in the world. Unfortunately, for the long term, oil production decline is very fast for fractured unconventional reservoirs, and the cheap oil from those reservoirs has already been produced. So the nation will still need oil shale as a long-term domestic, nondeclining supply of oil to fuel its military and civilian transportation needs.

NOSA is waiting for Congressional action on its recommendations.

— Glenn Vawter – National Oil Shale Association


June 6, 2018

On June 1, 2018, the National Oil Shale Association was one of seven parties to testify before a U. S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals. The title of the hearing was “Natural Gas and Oil Shale of the Piceance Basin” and it was held at Colorado Mesa University, Grand Junction, Colorado. Representing the Subcommittee were Chairman Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO).

Gary Aho, NOSA’s Executive Director, represented the Association. He presented key points from NOSA’s 2017 White Paper that called on Congress to follow through on the findings of the Task Force on Unconventional Fuels which issued its final report in 2007 as mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

NOSA put forth a “call to action’ in regard to oil shale. Key points included the following:
Oil shale is an important domestic resource with over 70% located on Federal lands in CO, UT and WY. This is believed to be the largest, single, untapped hydrocarbon resource in the world
This oil shale resource could meet a critical part of the Nation’s petroleum and chemical needs for well over 100 years
Oil shale development will create thousands of high-paying, long-term jobs
Oil shale development will generate billions of dollars in tax and royalty revenues to the Federal, State and local governments
Oil shale development will result in improved national and economic security for the U.S. and reduce strategic dependence on foreign oil
Oil shale can become the National Strategic Oil Shale Reserve (NSOSR), replacing much of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that now exists

NOSA then presented the following recommendations to Congress:

The current Administration should include oil shale in its “all-of-the-above” National Energy Policy
The BLM should designate certain oil shale areas as Strategic, such that they are off limits to conventional oil and gas drilling. The shale oil per acre far exceeds the value of any gas that might be produced from that acreage.
Congress should revisit the 2005 Energy Policy Act mandates, which are still part of the law
Congress should establish an Oil Shale Advisory Board to review the 2007 Task Force Report and update it to include recommendations appropriate for these times and the current domestic oil production scenario
Oil Shale Advisory Board members would include representatives from the Departments of Energy, Defense, and Interior, EPA, industry and state and local governments
NOSA would be engaged to Chair the Oil Shale Advisory Board and work with the Board to produce a Final Report with recommendations to Congress within 9 months
NOSA, a non-profit, would receive a Federal grant of $250,000 to direct the efforts of the Advisory Board, organize meetings, and produce the Final Report

NOSA is a not-for-profit educational association that puts forth factual information on oil shale and the benefits the nation will receive from developing this bountiful natural resource. The Association membership includes companies, individual and nonprofit organizations Contact information is:

Gary D. Aho
Executive Director
National Oil Shale Association
P.O. Box 411, Rifle, Co 81650



Rifle, Colorado
February 1, 2017


NOSA Announces Leadership Changes

The National Oil Shale Association (NOSA), headquartered in Rifle, Colorado, announced its 2017 Board of Directors and Officers.

The 2017 Board consists of the following Directors:
Ed Cooley (Chairman), ERTL Inc., Rifle, CO
Adolph Lechtenberger, Red Leaf Resources, Salt Lake City, UT
Justin Bilyeu, Shale Tech International Services, Rifle, CO
Ben Romney, Wheeler Machinery, Salt Lake City, UT
Chuck Whiteman, TerraCarta Energy Resources, Meeker, CO
Roger Day (Immediate Past Chairman), Independent Consultant, Rifle, CO
Glenn Vawter, ATP Services, Glenwood Springs, CO (Honorary Director)

The Board has appointed the following officers for 2017:
Gary Aho, Sage Geotech, Rifle, CO is the Executive Director
Deena Stanley, Shale Tech International Services, Rifle, CO is the Secretary/Treasurer

NOSA’s mission is to provide factual information on the oil shale resources of the United States with the goal of educating the public on the huge deposits of shale that could be developed as an important source of petroleum for the nation.


Gary D. Aho
Executive Director

Oil Shale Importance


Oil shale is an important domestic energy resource because:
1. Oil shale is a huge untapped domestic resource that can assist the nation in becoming less reliant upon foreign sources of petroleum and reduce the price we pay at the pump over the long term.
2. There are looming oil shortages, higher gasoline prices and political instability resulting from importing so much petroleum.
Green-River-Formation3. Both the military and public will benefit through the stabilization of gasoline prices, the reduction in the trade deficit, the creation of jobs here at home, the tax and royalty income for local communities, and a more secure future for our children and grandchildren.
4. Thus, a U.S. government policy is needed that supports the development of all domestic energy resources, including oil shale.

Oil shale can become a sustainable industry after decades of setbacks, because:
1. Knowledge about oil shale processing has improved here in the United States, and from the experience of foreign firms.
2. Despite reports to the contrary, a wealth of information is available to the public and decision makers on water usage, environmental impacts, energy efficiency, socioeconomic impacts and benefits, and climate change implications.
3. Lessons were learned from the past attempts to commercialize oil shale. Today, there are no government mandates and financial incentive for quick production as there were in an earlier boom and bust era.
4. Current research and development projects are taking a methodical and deliberate approach to obtain the detailed technical, economic and environmental answers before proceeding.

Oil Shale is a natural resource that produces fuel for automobiles, jet planes, trains and trucks. It is a rock that contains a solid hydrocarbon called kerogen. The composition of the rock varies depending upon the geologic origin. While oil shale is found in many regions of the world, the largest deposits of rich oil shale occur in the United States. There are oil shale deposits in the eastern United States but the thickest and richest oil shale deposits are those in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming as can be seen on the following map.

NOSA Brochure  – More Information on pages 2,3, of our brochure.
OIL SHALE – Green River Formation, print this page.