Current Tar Sands Developments & Updates

In Utah there are currently two explorations into producing oil from tar sands that stand out and we should keep some eyes on: Petroteq, near Vernal and U.S. Oil Sands operating at the P.R. Springs site.


PR Springs:

PR Springs first phase of mining. Left unreclaimed and exposed to erosional forces since before the bankruptcy.

US. Oil Sands, a Canadian Company, held leases to strip mine tar sands from 32,005 acres (50 sq. miles) on the Tavaputs Plateau, partially in Grand County.  The lease area is estimated to hold 4.4 billion barrels of crude. State regulators are turning a blind eye to the obvious environmental and social implications of a strip mining project on this scale.  The intent is to start by strip mine 213 acres of state lands for bitumen, which they will process into transportation fuels at refineries located in SLC, or Green River, if new refineries are built there to begin processing dirty energy extracted in the area.

US Oil Sands planned on commercially producing fuel years ago, but instead filed for bankruptcy in 2017. They began early stages of mining, stripping nearly 25 acres, built haul roads, excavated the first pit, and installed a $80 million processing facility that has never worked. The company went through “recievership” and has now been handed over to a newly created company, USO Utah LLC. It appears as if ACMO, the major share holder in the orginial US Oil Sands is the only member of USO Utah under the name ACMO USO LLC.

What’s unique about USO Utah’s technology?

  •  Operation will require 116 gallons of water per minute. 73.5 gallons of water are required to process one barrel of bitumen.
  • Typical bitumen extraction requires immersion and agitation of the sands in hot water, but because of the scarcity of water at the site, USOS proposes to use a new, citrus-based chemical solvent to extract the bitumen from the sand.
  • The company claims their process will recycle 98% of the citrus solvent used in their process to extract low-sulfur bitumen and 95% of the water.
  • USOS claimed that no or minimal groundwater exists at the site, eliminating the need for a water impact study and the Utah Supreme Court has agreed.


The new company, USO Utah has applied to transfer the Notice of Intent to Commence Large Scale Mining Operations with the Division of Oil Gas and Mining in Utah.

As of August 2018, no activity has been happening on the site.

The story of the last bankruptcy can be found here: “US Oil Sands enters into receivership
Details of the purchase can be found here in the Second Report of the Receiver.
The sales process and agreement can be found here.


Asphalt Ridge:

Petroteq (was MCW), runs a project located in the Asphalt Ridge tar sands district, just south of Vernal.  The Green River is visible (about 1/2 mile) down the hill from the test pit and processing site. This project is in the development stage on 2,100 acres of private land.

The mine was previously used to produce road material. Petroteq built an onsite processing facility that they are actively working on, trying to get up and running. They are actively encouraging investment in the company.

What’s Unique about Petroteq’s Technology?

  • They claim they use no greenhouse gases because the heater “runs on electricity” (from nearby Bonanza Coal Power Plant).
  • They claim they use no water because they use a chemical solvent that then “goes with the oil” and is also recycled.
  • The operation is primarily on private land, less permitting.


Here is a report debunking some of the propaganda that Petroteq has put out in the last few months.

They were fined for trespassing on their lease hold after not paying the lease payments in 2015.

11/11/2018: Petroteq received a Small Source Exemption from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Air Quality for its Vernal, Utah facility. Petroteq received an “Exemption” due to the Asphalt Ridge facility’s estimated emissions being less than the level where a permit is required. Link to article.

Link to Small Source Exemption Permit

Link to UDOGM Files for Petroteq

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