(July 19, 2004) -- Many experts think that the price of gasoline will go up again later this year, maybe even as high as $3 a gallon. That's bad news for consumers but it might represent a boon to Nevada, which is being explored for oil.
At least three companies are drilling for crude and more are on the way. In some valleys of central Nevada, you can stop, pick up a rock, and get a whiff of something familiar. "You get a strong inebriation of gasoline," said Jim Franklin, oil explorer. The rocks atop a wind whipped mound smell just like someone doused them with a gallon of ethyl.
Nevada has long been known for other underground riches, but some oil experts think our state's petroleum potential could dwarf all of the gold and silver resources combined. "There is no doubt, I can assure you 100% you are sitting on some of the greatest wealth in this country and the world," said Chuck Laser, an oil wildcatter. He adds, "It's just a matter of time.
A Florida oilman with the unlikely name of Chuck Laser stakes his 50 years in the oil business on the likelihood of not one big field here, but many. The giveaway clue he says is a beige rock called Chainman Shale. Wherever there's Chainman Shale, there's oil, and Nevada has this shale like nowhere else outside the Middle East.
"You have the richest largest organic mature rock source anyplace in the world except Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, Laser said.
California, Texas, Louisiana, they normally have 400-1000 feet of source rock. You have 2000 feet off rich Chainman Shale, creating billions and billions of barrels of oil that haven't been found yet.
In central Nevada's railroad valley, a collection of oil wells have been pounding out barrels for 30 years. This one well is the single most productive well in the country. The valley is also home to the state's only refinery. Oilmen like Jim Franklin have leased thousands of acres in adjoining valleys that have the same geologic features as this one.
Geologists are starting to flock here as well and have been cranking out surveys and reports about Nevada's oil potential. So far, the big oil companies haven't come calling, and fewer than 1000 exploratory holes have been drilled. But all of that could change soon, spurred on by high oil prices.
Chuck Laser is one of those who is on his way. "I have a 38,000 acre project in the White River valley and our studies indicate there is potentially 2 billion barrels under that," Laser said.
Chuck Laser says Nevada's complex geology is the main reason that there haven't been more oil strikes here. Techniques that might work elsewhere don't work in Nevada. He also thinks the truly huge oil fields might require drilling down to 25,000 feet. But he and others are confident it will be worth the trouble.
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