The bituminous sandstones of the Rocky Mountain region have significant reserves of oil. Production costs of the reserves must be reduced to be equal to or lower than the cost of crude oil produced by conventional methods. Three Utah deposits alone, Sunnyside, Vernal (Asphalt Ridge) and Whiterocks contain proved reserves of 875 million bbl of oil and "possible" reserves in excess of one billion bbl. In addition, there are at least six more deposits of asphaltic sands which contain substantial reserves within the state.
The most important deposits in Utah from the standpoint of thermal recovery are those of the Sunnyside area, Carbon County, Utah and the Asphalt Ridge-Vernal deposits, Uintah County, Utah. Two other areas which have thermal recovery potential are the bituminous sandstones of the Whiterocks area, Uintah County, Utah and the San Rafael Swell-Nequoia Arch area in Emery, Wayne and Garfield counties, Utah.
A preliminary evaluation of these four areas is discussed from the standpoint of geology, reservoir engineering, costs, markets and future development possibilities. These four, and perhaps three of the six areas of lesser importance, compare favorably with areas now being developed by thermal methods in California, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.
The threat of large-volume, low-cost imported oil moving into the United States, combined with ever increasing exploration, drilling, completion and production costs, makes it imperative that the American oil industry take a long, hard look at the tremendous amount of oil in the bituminous sandstone deposits, in oil shale reserves and in shallow-to-moderate-depth depleted or semidepleted fields where production has declined beyond the point of profitable return on production costs.
For example, prior to 1950 the only method considered at all feasible for producing the bituminous sandstones of the Rocky Mountain region was by either conventional or strip mining and extracting the bitumen through various types of separation processes.