The Uinta Basin Energy and Transportation Study (UBETS) began in late October 2012 sponsored by Duchesne County, Uintah County, Uintah Transportation Special Service District (UTSSD) and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). They sought to understand the effect of transportation constraints in Duchesne and Uintah Counties on future increases in energy (primarily oil and gas) production in the Uinta Basin. The study looked at answering these questions:
- What is the likely path of growth for energy production in the Basin?
- Is transportation capacity limiting future energy production?
- If so, what are the benefits of addressing those transportation system limitations?
UBETS was designed to ensure an unbiased, credible and conservative estimate and was conducted by a team of local and national transportation, economic and energy experts.
The study concluded that there is over $30 billion worth of energy development potential in the Basin. If this potential was realized, it could generate $10 billion of economic revenue and 27,000 jobs statewide over the next 30 years.
The study determined that transportation was limiting energy growth in the Basin because it is isolated from the rest of the state and has limited transportation options if commercial traffic were to increase. The results of the study were telling us that energy production could be impacted as early as 2015 if we didn’t look at other transportation options.
During the 2014 legislative session, state legislators allocated $3 million to initiate an environmental impact study (EIS). In the environmental study, UDOT worked with the community and industry experts to assess different modes of transportation (roads, rail, pipeline) and identify the most cost-effective and sustainable options with the least environmental impact possible.
How would an improved transportation system economically benefit the Basin?
The study indicated potentially significant economic benefits from improving the transportation system in the Basin and allowing for energy expansion.
For example, if energy expanded on lands owned by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), then the state could generate approximately $25 million per year for public education through fees.