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The Challenge of Oil Shale and Sands

May 12, 2011 – The challenge of developing Utah’s oil shale and oil sands as new fuel sources will be discussed from regulatory, industry and environmental perspectives during a Tuesday, May 17 conference.

The annual University of Utah Unconventional Fuels Conference – sponsored by the university’s Institute for Clean and Secure Energy – will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Varsity Room on level 6 of Rice-Eccles Stadium.

News media are invited to cover the conference, which is open to the public for a $50 fee that includes breakfast and lunch.

Oil shale and oil sands are the unconventional fuels that will be addressed in this year’s conference.

“Utah has an abundance of both types of fuel,” says conference organizer Jennifer Spinti, a research associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Utah. “The estimated size of Utah oil sands resources is in the 32 billion-barrel range while the potential economic oil shale resource has recently been estimated at 77 billion barrels by the Utah Geological Survey.”

Spinti adds: “Despite their abundance, these fuels are difficult to produce due to technical, economical, and regulatory challenges and there is no current commercial production of either resource in the state of Utah.”

Starting at 8:30 a.m., speakers from federal and state regulatory agencies will address some of the issues faced by unconventional fuels development in terms of permitting, leasing and constraints imposed by other forms of fuel production. Such constraints include the effects of conventional oil and gas production on air quality and land use.

At 9:40 a.m., Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, will speak on “Balancing Economic Development in the Energy Sector and Quality of Life.”

From 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (excluding the lunch break), speakers representing several oil sands and oil shale production companies will discuss their strategies for moving toward commercial production.

From 2:20 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., the environmental implications of development will be covered by speakers from the Institute for Clean and Secure Energy at the University of Utah as well as an environmental consultant.

At 4:15 p.m., University of Utah law Professor Arnold W. Reitze, Jr., will speak about “Climate Change Regulation via the Back Door.”

A highlight of this year’s conference will be the display of the Skyline 16 oil shale core, which was drilled last year in Utah’s eastern Uinta Basin in a project jointly funded by the Institute for Clean and Secure and the Utah Geological Survey. The 4-inch-diameter core was drilled to 1,000 feet so it went through nearly the entire oil shale zone. Visible in the core are zones rich and poor in kerogen, which is the organic material in oil shale that, when heated, produces shale oil and gas.

The registration fee is $50 and includes parking, admittance to all sessions, a continental breakfast and a buffet lunch. On-site registration will be available the day of the conference. Online registration is available at:

The conference agenda is at:;&subpage=86;&confpage=agenda