Utah Oil Sands


Unita Basin, Alphalt RidgeOil sands, or tar sands as they are often referred to, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands known as "oil-wet" deposits in Utah contain a mixture of sand and a dense, extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen or tar. There are many other deposits of oil sands throughout the world, most notably in Venezuela and Canada, where they are known as "water-wet" deposits because they're typically found deep in the earth, mixed in with water, sand and clay in a semi-solid natural deposit. Although several of America's western/southern states have oil sands deposits, Utah contains approximately 55% of the nation's total deposits, concentrated in eight major deposit areas with a total resource of over 30 billion barrels of oil. (Source: US DOE).

Oil Sands DepositsUtah's Bureau of Land Management oversees all matters pertaining to mineral resource and oil and gas development, covering over 22.9 million acres of land throughout the state. In the Vernal area, BLM's jurisdiction covers over 5,500,000 acres. A limited amount of oil sands production occurred in the late 1970's and early 1980's, but inefficient technologies and extremely low oil prices brought much of these operations to a halt. Recently, though, the U.S. interest in increasing domestic energy sources has intensified technological advances such as MCW's Liquid Extraction System, prices have increased dramatically and the occurrences of significant new reserves of conventional crude oil have become extremely rare. The focus is now on developing U.S. oil sands deposits, with Utah's Oil Sands as a major potential source of domestic energy.

Utah Tar Sand Summary
Tar Sand Triangle 16.0 billion bbl
P.R. Spring 4.5 billion bbl
Hill Creek 1.2 billion bbl
Other Deposits 1.4 billion bbl
Sunnyside 6.0 billion bbl
Asphalt Ridge 1.5 billion bbl
Circle Ridge 1.1 billion bbl
White Rocks 0.3 billion bbl
Total Shallow Oil 32.0 billion bbl
Resevoir Properties Asphalt Ridge
Depth in feet 20 - 600
Porosity % 27
Permeability (md) 1000+
Maximum: 60
Average 48

Asphalt Ridge Oil SandsOil Sands DepositsUnita Basin

Asphalt Ridge

Summary of Resource-In Place

ResourceBarrels per Acre/FootNet Pay Feet
Measured Area:
60,000+ B/A 700-1200 850 25-83 50
20-60,000 B/A 580- 950 775 22-100 35
0-20,000 B/A 300-1000 400 7-60 35
Speculative Area:
0-20,000 B/A   400*   35*
*Assumed the same as measured area contour.

The two outcrops contain the richest areas of the measured field.  Richness varies from 100 to more than 300 barrels per acre-foot.  The net pay ranges from 35 to 50 feet.

The measured resource in-place at Asphalt Ridge is estimated to be 0.8 billion barrels underlying 29,000 acres. The speculative resource in-place is estimated to be 0.3 billion barrels under 22,000 surface acres. (All estimates from the Department of Energy , U.S. Government.)

More Information On Utah's Oil Sands