Nevada and fracking

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The resource potential of Nevada oil shale has been reported as being comparatively minor. However, relatively little detailed geologic study has previously been devoted to Nevada's oil shale. To date, the only appreciable amounts of gas found have been at the Kate Spring Field in Nevada's Nye County. The field is presently annually producing less than 8,000 thousand cubic feet of gas, which is being used to operate equipment in the field.[1]

In September 2014 Nevada state officials approved regulations that would allow fracking to take place in the state.[2]


Oil shale in Nevada is primarily associated with rocks now designated as the Elko Formation. Other rock units in Nevada also contain organic-rich deposits that have some minor potential for oil-shale resources; however, they have been discussed in this report mostly because of their significance as conventional oil and gas source rocks for petroleum reservoirs in Nevada. Of these rocks with minor interest for oil shale, the most promising formations include the Vinini Formation and the Woodruff Formation.

In 1875 oil shale was first recognized in Nevada in the Elko area in 1875 and has since been recognized in other areas. The Catlin Shale Products Company at Elko in 1917-1924 produced about 12,000 barrels shale oil, but the enterprise was a commercial failure. The products were of low quality.

The Vinini and Woodruff Formations contain kerogen-rich, marine deposited shales that have high concentrations of heavy metals such as vanadium, selenium, and zinc. Although the Vinini and Woodruff Formations have shales that yield from a few gallons to as much as 15 to 30 gallons of oil per ton, oil yields are lower on average.

A minimum geologic age determined for the Elko Formation is latest Eocene or earliest Oligocene, or about 37 million years old. Oil shale in the Elko Formation was derived from the accumulation and preservation of mineral sediments and organic materials deposited in an ancient lake or lakes. Subsequent erosion and faulting have disrupted the original lateral continuity of these oil-shale bearing deposits and left only scattered remnants exposed in mountain ranges, or deeply buried in sedimentary basins in northeastern Nevada. Scattered remnants of the Elko Formation occur over a north-south elongated area about 100 miles in length and 30 miles in width, confined to Elko County. [1]

Citizen activism

On December 9, 2014 environmentalists, tribal members and other fracking critics gathered outside Bureau of Land Management offices in Reno to oppose the controversial activity. The protest was not the first. The protesters want the "BLM to halt the proposed lease sale of more than 189,000 acres of public land in Lincoln and Nye counties for oil and gas development. They are concerned hydraulic fracturing ... would be used in the area to tap hydrocarbon deposits at significant cost to water resources, the environment and rural quality of life."[3]

Legislative issues and regulations

Citizen groups

Industry groups




  1. 1.0 1.1 "Oil & Gas Resources" University of Nevada Reno, accessed April 9, 2012.
  2. "State regulators allow fracking to start in Nevada" Jeff DeLong, Reno Gazette-Journal, September 1, 2014.
  3. "'Fracking' protest planned in Reno" Jeff DeLong, Reno-Gazette Journal, December 8, 2014.

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