South of Highway 40 in eastern Utah, down a two-lane highway where the Green and Duchesne rivers meet, lies the small town of Ouray. Continuing south, the highway turns into a gravel road that rambles an additional 50 miles before it comes to a sign marking the oil sands lease owned by U.S. Oil Sands Inc.
These days, however, the rural route is undergoing a major transformation. Construction crews are clearing brush and crushing gravel as they convert the sleepy Seep Ridge Road into a transportation artery about as wide as a four-lane highway.
The road expansion will make it easier for U.S. Oil Sands to transport large industrial equipment to its lease site at P.R. Springs and to truck bitumen from the company’s oil sands strip mine to refineries in Salt Lake City and Wyoming. Company officials say that if oil sands production in the region is successful, Utah may need to export bitumen by rail to other states.
While the construction crews were spreading water on the roadway to prevent dust clouds from blocking their view, lawyers at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality offices in Salt Lake City were in their second day of hearings on U.S. Oil Sands’ application to begin the nation’s first commercial oil sands production (EnergyWire, May 17).