Skip to Content

Advancing Utah's Energy Future
University of Utah looks for new ways to use state’s coal

Conventional Energy

  • A
  • A
  • A


Utah is home to vast reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas including:

  • 555 million barrels of crude oil (1.5% of U.S. share)
  • 6,685 billion cubic feet of dry natural gas (1.8%)
  • 206 million barrels of expected future production of natural gas plant liquids (1.4%)
  • 97 million short tons of recoverable coal (0.5%)

According to the Fraser Institute’s 10th annual survey, Utah ranks as the 9th most attractive jurisdiction for upstream petroleum investment.  Utah’s oil and gas industry, (extraction, refining, distribution, and sales), provides more than 7,000 direct, high-paying jobs in Utah, while the coal industry provides more than 1,500 (as of 2015).  In 2013, oil and gas contributed $5.2 billion to Utah’s economy, while coal accounted for $887 million.

Quick Facts:

  • Utah ranks 14th in coal production, 11th in oil, and 10th natural gas production (2015)
  • Utah has approximately 4,591 producing oil wells and 7,099 producing natural gas wells (2015)
  • About one-fourth of Utah’s total crude oil production came from tribal lands (2013)
  • In 2014, 11.9 million short tons of coal was used locally, 3.4 million st was shipped to other states, and 2.5 million st was shipped overseas


Affordable and reliable energy, largely supplied by Utah’s low-sulfur, high BTU coal, plays a crucial role in Utah’s successful economic formula. Mined throughout Utah for more than 100 years, roughly 75 of the electricity generated in Utah comes from coal. In 2015, for example, 14.5 million tons of coal was produced in Utah, valued at $520 million. Utah’s coal economy is especially important to rural Utah, providing roughly 2,000 direct high-paying jobs, and a significant portion of several rural counties tax base – including Sevier, Emery and Carbon counties.

The majority of Utah’s power is produced from the state’s five highly efficient power plants, namely Intermountain Power Plant (1,800 MW), Hunter (1,427 MW), Huntington (996 MW), Sunnyside (58 MW), and Bonanza (500 MW – located on Indian Country, under federal jurisdiction).

Utah is also leading the way on several advanced coal innovations including carbon capture, oxy-firing, gasification and coal to liquid technologies. The state is also home to the University of Utah’s nationally recognized Institute for Clean and Secure Energy, which boasts a premier coal combustion and gasification lab.

Natural Gas

The natural gas industry continues to thrive in Utah. Historically, coal has dominated Utah’s energy scene, but starting in 2010, natural gas became the primary energy production source. By 2014, increased activity in the Uinta Basin boosted production levels to record highs at 491 billion cubic feet (however, due to market swings, production declined to 423 bcf in 2015). Utah currently ranks 10th in the U.S. for natural gas production (2013), and holds roughly two percent of the nation’s reserves supply.

Produced through conventional wells and coalbed methane, Utah’s natural gas in 2015 comprised 42 percent of the energy produced in the state, and 26 percent of the energy consumed. Roughly 16 percent was exported to surrounding states.

Utah is crossed by one of the transportation corridors for shipping natural gas to markets in Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho. The Clay Basin facility on the Utah-Wyoming border near Colorado is one of the region’s largest underground storage facilities. More storage capacity is being developed in a salt formation in western Utah to provide market storage services on the interstate pipelines for Wyoming’s natural gas Opal Hub.


Utah’s rich history as a major oil producer dates back to 1955, with the discovery of Bluebell field in Duchesne County. More than six decades later, the state ranks as the 11th largest oil producer in the United States. Utah’s 504 million barrels of reserves is estimated to last roughly 20 more years, ensuring the state remains a significant oil producer for years to come.

Through the years, Utah has undergone three oil booms, and is currently defining a fourth. The commodity made the largest contribution to Utah’s fuel production in 2014, with nearly 41 million barrels ($2.8 billion). With the drop in oil prices in 2015, production dipped 9.6 percent to 37 million barrels ($1.3 billion). In 2015, crude oil made up approximately 21 percent of the energy produced in Utah, and accounted for 33 percent of the total energy consumed by Utahns.

Waxy Crude
The majority of Utah’s oil production is concentrated in Duchesne, Uintah and San Juan counties. The oil is commonly referred to as “waxy crude” given its relatively high paraffin content. Utah’s two types, black and yellow, flow like a liquid at high temperature, but turn to the consistency of shoe polish at room temperature, creating long-distance transportation challenges. However, their unique makeup has very low levels of acid, sulfur and metals, which make them desirable to refineries because they require less processing.

The state’s five refineries, located in the Salt Lake City area, process crude oil brought in by pipeline from Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and Canada. The refineries, which produce motor gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, other fuel oils, and wax, represent more than one-fourth of the refining capacity in Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD).

Utah’s Regulatory Roadmap


In late 2015, Utah’s land-grant research institution, Utah State University (USU), released the Regulatory Road Map for Oil and Gas Exploration, Development, and Production in Utah. The resource guide provides industry stakeholders with an overview of oil and gas regulations throughout the state.






U.S. Energy Information Administration
Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining
Utah Extractive Resource Industry 2014

Related Posts

University of Utah looks for new ways to use state’s coal

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is launching a $1.6 million project to determine the feasibility of turning coal into carbon fiber, a material used in manufacturing of skis, cars and planes. University chemical engineering professor Eric Eddings announced the effort on Wednesday, saying finding a new way to use coal would be both energy and economy friendly. “If we can find an economical way to use coal…

more >>

How coal, energy could tip the scales for presidential candidates in battleground states

By Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News SALT LAKE CITY — A national trade organization said Utah is among 13 key battleground states where the bid for the White House should factor in the “political importance” of coal-fired electrical generation and its continuing role in the nation. “It is more than a policy position,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president of communications for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. “It…

more >>

My view: Coal not going away anytime soon

By Mark Compton For the Deseret News This letter is in response to the Deseret News editorial of June 30 and their conclusion that “traditional fossil fuel industries find themselves in a state of eclipse.” The editorial implies that because of Oakland’s decision to not allow coal to be shipped through that city and Rocky Mountain Power’s Solar Subscriber Program allowing customers to buy “blocks” of solar power, Utah’s coal…

more >>

Wirth Watching: Baseball Tradition in Utah’s Mining Towns

MAGNA, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Much of our colorful state history was made in mining towns. No mine wanted another one to beat it in production. And no miner or copper worker wanted to take second place to the guy down the road at the next mine. That competition rose to a whole new level each summer on baseball diamonds throughout the state In the old days there was a…

more >>

Governor’s Office of Energy Development Coal Hearing Statement

Governor’s Office of Energy Development Coal Hearing Statement SALT LAKE CITY (May 19, 2016) – Dr. Laura Nelson, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development presented the following statement at the U.S. Interior Department’s coal reform public meeting: “It is no secret that Utah has one of the nation’s best economies and highest qualities of life. Affordable and reliable energy, largely supplied by coal-fired power, plays a crucial…

more >>

Coal Audit Hearing Coming to SLC

By JUDY FAHYS | KUER The U.S. Interior Department has launched a sweeping review of coal mining on federal lands, and next Thursday officials are visiting Salt Lake City to talk about it. Bobbi Bryant-Salvato, who runs a small business in Panguitch, plans to speak at the Salt Palace hearing. She has many concerns she wants to share with the Bureau of Land Management. Among them: that coal-truck traffic on…

more >>

Salt Lake City to host coal reform hearing in May

Amy Joi O’Donoghue | Deseret News SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is among the battleground locations picked by the U.S. Department of the Interior to garner public input on possible reforms to the federal coal program that could include upping royalty payments assessed to companies and more stringent environmental regulations. The federal agency Tuesday announced a series of public meetings in May and June, with the Salt Palace Convention Center…

more >>

Op-ed: Newspapers decline but oil will be valuable for decades

In its Tuesday editorial, The Salt Lake Tribune questioned whether the state of Utah should focus on the continued development of “waxy” crude in the Uinta Basin. Here is why it is important to have a discussion about this key energy resource. In the last decade of the 20th century, global car sales averaged about 39 million per year. Just over a decade later, in 2013, global car sales had…

more >>

Low oil prices could help improve Utah’s air quality

Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News SALT LAKE CITY — The monumental shifts in the price of oil are already helping to keep cash in motorists’ wallets, but they’re also creating a market change that could ultimately improve air quality along the Wasatch Front. Consider that the use of one 50-car shuttle train carrying Uinta Basin crude oil is the equivalent of removing 200 to 250 heavy-duty trucks off U.S. 40,…

more >>

Oil industry is ‘Wishin’ and Hopin’ and Thinkin’ and Prayin’

  Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News SALT LAKE CITY — Active drilling rigs in the nation’s top 10 oil- and gas-producing counties are down 57 percent over the 2015 average and overall, the U.S. rig count continues to diminish week by week in the face of slumping prices. In fact, a top industry analyst said Wednesday that the current crisis across the industry is worse than what the nation experienced…

more >>