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MOBILE, Ala. – Alabama and Mississippi are forming a partnership to further study the oil sands resources in the two states, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant announced on Saturday while speaking to the Southern States Energy Board.

Governor Bentley and Governor Bryant signed a memorandum of understanding commissioning an assessment of oil sands, which is a sandy mixture found below the surface containing bitumen.  After extracting the sand, the bitumen is transformed into refinery-ready crude oil.

“As I have said before, for our nation to become more energy independent, we must recognize the importance of a forward-thinking approach to energy and continue to develop a comprehensive energy policy that works,” Governor Bryant said.

The assessment is to be conducted as a joint effort between the Geological Survey of Alabama/State Oil and Gas Board, the Mississippi State Oil and Gas Board, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Mississippi Office of Geology and the Southern States Energy Board.

“By taking this action, we’re exploring the potential for safe and reliable development of energy right here at home,” Governor Bentley said.

Governor Bentley currently serves as chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.  During his time as chairman, he has addressed the states’ roles in the responsible development of various energy resources.  In his 2013 Chairman’s Address, Governor Bentley said state oil and gas boards are the agencies that have the best expertise and local knowledge to oversee development of our oil and gas resources.

Known as the Hartselle Sandstone, the underground layer of resources that will be assessed based on Saturday’s MOU stretches from north-central and northwest Alabama into northeastern Mississippi.  Various studies have been conducted over the years regarding the Hartselle Sandstone.

“Estimates that were done back in the middle 1980s indicated there could be as much as 7.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent in the oils sands of Alabama,” says State Geologist Dr. Nick Tew. Tew says the agreement between Alabama and Mississippi supports a new assessment of the oil sands for a more accurate understanding of potential available resources.

“We need new information on the development of the area,” Governor Bryant said.  “By signing this MOU , Mississippi looks forward to working with Governor Bentley and his team of experts to study these resources, which will hopefully lead to commercial development.  It is going to take full cooperation from industry, state officials and technical experts to get this formation into production, and I am here today to offer assistance from Mississippi.”

“We all see the future promise of alternative sources of energy.  However, these sources will not be able to fulfill all of our needs for a long time,” Governor Bentley added.  “That means fossil fuels will continue to be an important source of energy for the foreseeable future.  We simply must continue to develop our North American fossil fuel resources in a safe and responsible manner.  This assessment will help us better understand the resources that are available while also helping us meet our energy needs.”

The assessment may include an inventory of existing core and well logs for data collection, identification of data gaps, acquisition and interpretation of additional data, detailed geologic reservoir modeling, a refined estimate of oil reserves and an inventory of existing and new infrastructure needed to support the industry.  The analysis will also examine legal or regulatory guidelines regarding commercial deployment across the geographical boundary between the states.

The practice of extracting oil sands is no stranger to Canada, which has a long history of extracting from oil sands with the largest deposits located in Alberta.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) lists Canada’s reserves as being 178 billion barrels.  Governor Bentley and Governor Bryant believe there is an opportunity for our two states to learn from our Canadian neighbors.

“Canada has proven to be a leader in oil sand recovery, and we hope through this evaluation process, we can collaborate and share knowledge on best practices,” Bryant said.

“Communities and businesses depend on reliable sources of energy,” Governor Bentley concluded.  “That’s why it’s so important to explore our resources.  Through this assessment, we can better understand the resources we have and the most responsible methods of developing them.”

Click here to view the Memorandum of Understanding.