2 Minute Expert Briefing: Shale Oil Research

Obama administration releases a proposal which will reduce the area of land available for oil shale development  by 75%

NRG Expert, the energy intelligence company, has been watching the news regarding the Obama announcement with interest. The Bureau of Land Management’s proposal would reduce available lands for oil shale development by more than 75 percent. Whilst the announcement will impact Oil Shale production in the US, our reports show that other countries do have resources and are considering exploiting these.

What would spark an increase in shale oil and oil-shale production?

  • High oil prices 

  • Constrained oil supplies

  • Uncertainty e.g. war or oil embargos

  • Additional revenue stream opportunities from oil shale projects e.g. cosmetic ingredients, cement, uranium and phosphate for fertilisers.

And as OPEC (The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil is expected to continue to dominate the oil markets, countries with oil shale reserves may be keen to develop, at least to create some domestic supply.

Which countries have the highest reserves?

The US has by far and away the most reserves, but the recent proposal would reduce the area of land available until the industry proves commercial development to be “technically viable and environmentally safe.” * It is worth noting though, that the proposal does not refer to all the shale oil produced in the US,  just oil produced from oil-shale.

Oil shale is a fine grained sedimentary rock containing fine grained bituminous materials called kerogen. Many products can be produced from oil shale, including shale oil.

Other countries with fewer reserves, but commercial oil shale production are Brazil, Estonia and China.

Countries ranked by oil shale resources, (million barrels)

Country                                             In place resources

USA                                                                      3,706,825

China                                                                       354,430

Russia                                                                     247,883

Congo                                                                     100,000

Brazil                                                                          82,000

Italy                                                                            73,000

Morocco                                                                    53,381

Jordan                                                                       35,172

Australia                                                                    31,729

Estonia                                                                      16,286

Source; Used by permission of the World Energy Council, London, www.worldenergy.org 2008


Over the coming years the development of the shale oil industry will be challenged. For example by other sources of oil; fluctuating prices; environmental opposition and environmental legislations including water usage. But with oil prices projected to remain high and the additional revenue streams available for oil shale, the high production costs may be justified.


To see the full picture and to obtain detailed statistics on global shale oil reserves by country and company, see NRG’s expert report:

>>Global Oil Reserves & Shale Oil Report 2012


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Background information

NRG Expert is a London and Toronto based energy intelligence and market research publisher. NRG Expert provides up to date information and analysis of worldwide energy markets, including electricity, natural gas, coal, nuclear, renewable energy, water and waste, and all elements of energy infrastructure.