A GIS Analysis of Technically Recoverable Natural Gas and Oil from Challenged Lease Parcels in Utah

Thursday, January 1, 2009

On December 19, 2008, BLM issued leases covering close to 150,000 acres in Utah. Plaintiffs have challenged 77 of those leases, totaling around 103,000 acres. The potential natural gas and oil under these contested leases in Utah amounts to a miniscule amount of energy. At best (not taking into account prices or other obstacles to development), these leases could provide 0.02% of annual oil and just 0.5% of annual natural gas consumption.

Meanwhile, there are close to 33 million acres of federal minerals leased by the oil and gas industry, but not in production nationwide. More than 3.6 million acres in Utah are in the hands of oil and gas companies but not being developed.  The contested leases are equivalent to 1/3 of one percent of these undeveloped leases nationwide and less than 3% of those in Utah. Between 1998 and 2007 the number of permits to drill oil and gas wells on Utah's public lands nearly quadrupled. Furthermore, over 35% of those issued in 2007 were never used.

Based on the substantial surplus of both leased public lands to be developed and drilling permits issued, as well as the small amount of resources involved, issuance of these leases will affect neither the price, nor the supply of natural gas or oil. Further, development of these leases would not be without other costs.

Authors:  Dawn Hartley, Janice Thomson, Ph.D., and Michelle Haefele, Ph.D.