Oil Shale Facts

Oil Shale Facts

Over the last few years there have been significant increases in oil and gas development in North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, in what are commonly referred to as shale oil fields. These are natural gas and liquid oil deposits that are found in shale rock formations and not in the actual oil shale ore. So, what is oil shale exactly?

Oil shale.

Oil shale is a very fine-grained sedimentary rock containing organic that converts to oil when heated. The resource is present within a solid material, trapped in and among the layers of rock until it is heated and released from the rest of the rock, as either gas or liquid.

Where is oil shale found?

Oil shale deposits occur around the world, but the resource’s accessibility and the quantity of oil per ton of rock varies dramatically. The deposits in Colorado,Utah, and Wyoming are widely considered to be the most accessible and richest in the world.

What is the difference between oil shale and shale oil?

Shale oil is the liquid and gas trapped between the layers of shale. The oil and natural gas is extracted in its current form by various techniques including traditional pump systems as well as fracking. Oil shale contains the resource in a solid form and it can only be released and collected with the application of heat.


“If the oil shale of the Green River Formation were a few thousand feet deeper, it would be generating truly amazing amounts of oil as we speak. It is probably the richest petroleum source rock formation in the world. But the fact that nature didn‘t do the cooking for us means that we have the opportunity to invent our own recipes, and companies like Red Leaf Resources are doing just that.”

– Dr. Jeremy Boak, PhD, Geology (Harvard) Director, Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research (COSTAR), Colorado School of Mines