Center of the American West compiles online report about oil shale

By Staff

Patty Limerick is the Faculty Director and Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at CU-Boulder.

The University of Colorado at Boulder's Center of the American West has developed an online report that offers Web site visitors an impartial perspective on the oil shale production debate.

"What Every Westerner Should Know About Oil Shale" comes as Colorado prepares for what looks like another oil shale development cycle.

CU history Professor Patty Limerick, who is the center's faculty director and board chair, co-authored the report with center researcher Jason Hanson. Two years in the making, the project details the first two oil shale booms on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains.


Oil shale is a term used to describe a variety of sedimentary rocks that will ignite when exposed to enough heat.

The report's intent is "to provide a safe port in the storm of data disputes that usually rage on topics like this. We want to encourage a more responsible, more informed and more productive decision-making process," Hanson said.

In the report, the center takes no position either for or against oil shale production. Hanson noted that the project grew out of a Chevron-funded workshop, and that people involved in its preparation on all sides of the debate have praised its nonpartisan approach.

The world's largest supplies of oil shale, a layer of sedimentary rock that companies compress and refine into petroleum, lie trapped beneath the western slope of the Rockies in parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Colorado's last oil shale boom-and-bust cycle occurred in the early 1980s.


Colorado's Rio Blanco County is home to Shell's Mahogany Research Project, an oil shale lease in the Piceance Basin.