Water would be used not for fracking, but as a lubricant for drilling. Frank Rusco, GAO's director for energy and science issues, told ABC News water also would be used as steam "to stimulate the flow of oil." Water would also be neeeded, as at any work site, for dust control and cooling.
Day said he expects AMSO's in-situ wells will be water-neutral. Experiments so far suggest that the company may get a barrel of water from the rock for every barrel of oil extracted. AMSO intends to cool its operations using radiators, not water.
Rusco doubts substantial amounts of oil could be produced from Green River anytime soon because production is not yet economical. It costs more to produce a barrel of oil here than the oil can be sold for on the market.
GAO's report says commercial development of oil shale is "at least 15-20 years away."
Glenn Vawter, executive director of the National Oil Shale Association in Glenwood Springs, Colo., isn't so sure. Right now, he says, it costs his members somewhere between $40 and $80 to produce a barrel of oil from shale, depending on the technology they use. The price of oil, currently at $86 a barrel, has risen in the past over $100 a barrel and continues to fluctuate. Technology, he points out, is also evolving.
A Canadian oil producer has experimented with using radio energy to heat rock.
"The economics remain a bit speculative," Vawter said, but he thinks that "big production" might be only five to 10 years out.
There's no question, says Rusco, that the oil is there, all 3 trillion barrels of it.
"The technology for assessing oil reserves is pretty good," Rusco said. "I don't say there isn't a wide margin of error, but you can have great confidence that there is a very, very large amount of oil trapped down there that could be recovered. It's just that, so far, it can't be recovered at a profit."