Oil Shale.

Shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock composed of a mud rich in clay- and silt-sized sediment grains. Some shale can also contain significant amounts of organic matter—the fossil remains of protozoans, microscopic animals, or plants—called kerogen. When kerogen-bearing shale is buried deeply enough and for millions of years, the natural heat and pressure of the Earth can convert the kerogen to oil (and/or gas). Oil shale, not to be confused with shale oil, must be heated to high temperatures to convert the organic matter (kerogen) into usable oil.

In Utah’s oil-shale deposits, much of the kerogen-bearing rock is close to the surface and therefore has not yet generated hydrocarbons. The oil industry has for years attempted to develop economic techniques to artificially “cook” the kerogen, thus speeding up the process from millions of years to days.

Utah’s Oil Shale Deposits

Outcrop of the upper Green River Formation lacustrine deposits along Evacuation Creek, Uintah County, Utah.

Outcrop of the upper Green River Formation lacustrine deposits along Evacuation Creek, Uintah County, Utah.

Located in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah, the state’s oil shale deposits’ estimated in-ground resources are over 300 billion barrels of oil—some of the largest oil shale resources in the world. Utah oil shale was deposited as organic-rich sediments in a freshwater lake (Lake Uinta) about 50 million years ago. These deposits are exposed around the Uinta Basin’s rim in the Green River Formation—also a major oil and gas producer in the subsurface of the basin.

The Green River Formation of the western U.S. contains more than half of the world’s oil shale resources. The Green River oil shale deposits are some of the thickest and highest grade in the world with oil-bearing intervals reaching over 130 feet thick and can yield more than 25 gallons per ton of rock.

Uinta Basin Water Study

Water-Related Issues Affecting Conventional Oil and Gas Recovery and Potential Oil Shale Development in the Uinta Basin, Utah

Non-Petroleum Well Data

Non-confidential old paper well logs and data for non-petroleum exploration holes drilled in Utah.


Basin-wide evaluation of the uppermost Green River Formation’s oil-shale resource, Uinta Basin, Utah, and Colorado
Michael Vanden Berg, Utah Geological Survey
Presented at the 28th Oil Shale Symposium, November 2008.

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Utah’s Oil Shale Deposits: Stratigraphy and Resource Evaluation
Michael Vanden Berg, Utah Geological Survey
Presented at the 27th Oil Shale Symposium, October 2007.

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Re-examination of Utah’s oil shale deposits: Historical database and new resource evaluation
Michael D. Vanden Berg and David E. Tabet, Utah Geological Survey
Presented at the GSA – Rocky Mountain Section, May 2007.

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Public Interest Articles

Assessing Geologic Carbon Sequestration Opportunities in Utah CO2 Sequestration 2022
Massive Core Donations Spurred by Low Oil Prices Core Center 2021
Utah’s Emerging Northern Paradox Basin Unconventional Oil Play Oil and Gas 2021
Covenant Oil Field in the Central Utah thrust Belt Turns 15 Years Old Oil and Gas 2020
Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Utah’s Energy Industry Energy 2020
The Benefits of Oil and Gas Production to the State of Utah and Its Citizens—How Things Work! Oil and Gas 2019
New Core, New Insights into Ancient Lake Uinta Evolution and Uinta Basin Energy Resources Oil and Gas 2019
Crystal Geyser, Grand County Water 2018
Oil and Gas in the Uinta Basin, Utah –What to Do With the Produced Water Oil and Gas 2018
Horizontal Drilling in Utah: Can Utah Compete with Surrounding States? Oil and Gas 2018
Core Like Never Before – An Unprecedented 1600-foot Core from the Green River Formation in the Uinta Basin Core Center News 2018
Not All Megawatts Are Created Equal – An Examination of Electric Generation Capacity Factor Electricity 2017
UCRC Receives a Treasure Trove Donation of Greater Aneth Oil Field Cores Core Center News 2017
Some impacts of low oil prices on Utah Oil 2016
Cores from Central Utah’s Covenant Field – Oil-Bearing Ancient Sand Dunes Core Center News 2016
Cores from Greater Aneth Oil Field: A Trip Back in Time to Utah’s “Bahama Islands” and “Florida Keys” Core Center News 2016
Understanding Southeast Utah’s Cane Creek Oil, A Continuing Challenge Oil and Gas 2015
Updated Map Shows Utah’s Many Oil and Gas Fields Oil and Gas 2015
Development of New Markets for Uinta Basin Crude via Rail Oil 2015
Utah still supplying gilsonite to the world after 125 years of mining Mining 2014
Frack Sand in Utah? Mining 2014
UGS Set to Publish Major Study on Potential Paleozoic Shale-Gas Resources Oil and Gas 2014
Utah Hosts Petroleum Geology Convention Oil and Gas 2014
Utah Oil and Gas: a rich history, a powerful future (updated 2013) Oil and Gas 2013
New UGS study to determine what best to do with water produced from gas fields in the Uinta Basin Gas 2013
Are Ownership and Production Patterns of Utah Petroleum Resources Related? Oil and Gas 2013
Northwest Utah—Could it be Utah’s Newest Energy Hotspot? Energy 2012
A Longer Term View of the Results of U.S. Energy Policy Energy 2012
Hydraulic fracturing and shale gas Oil and Gas 2012
Utah Shales May Contain The “Right Stuff”—Natural Gas Natural Gas 2011
Natural Buttes Field – Utah’s “tight” sandstone gas storehouse Oil and Gas 2011
Major Oil Plays in Utah and Vicinity Oil and Gas 2010
Ancient Exhumed River Channels of the Morrison and Cedar Mountain Formations Geologic History 2008
Tight Gas Reservoirs, Uinta Basin Oil and Gas 2007
Utah Core Research Center: Aiding Utah’s Petroleum Development Oil and Gas 2007
Increased Oil and Gas Drilling in Utah Starting to Produce Dividends Oil and Gas 2006
Utah Key Player in Future Oil Shale Development Oil Shale 2006
Funding Encourages a Wide Spectrum of Research on Utah's Hydrocarbon Resources Hydrocarbons 2006
“Elephant” Discovered in Central Utah? Oil and Gas 2005
“Bubblin’ Crude” at Rozel Point, Box Elder County Great Salt Lake 2005
UGS Awarded DOE Grant Oil and Gas 2004
New Oil and Gas Fields Map of Utah Oil and Gas 2004
An Up Close and Personal View of Cherokee Oil Field Oil and Gas 2003
Natural Gas Development Continues to Expand in Utah Oil and Gas 2003
Coalbed-Gas Exploration in Utah Oil and Gas 2003
Utah’s Petroleum Industry Posts Banner Year in 2001 Oil and Gas 2002
Growing importance of coalbed gas in Utah Energy 2002
Too Many Wells — or Too Few Water 2002
Oil and Gas in Summit County, Utah Oil and Gas 1995
Oil and Gas Pipeline Map of Utah Maps 1994

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