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Shale is sedimentary rock that can contain oil or natural gas.

Expanded Definition

"Oil shale" is very rich in an organic material called kerogen, which can be converted into fuel, diesel, and other products. Click here for a U.S. Department of Energy fact sheet on oil shale resources. "America’s total oil shale resources could exceed 6 trillion barrels of oil equivalent. However, most of the shale is in deposits of insufficient thickness or richness to access and produce economically," according to the sheet.

Oil shale should not be confused with oil sands. Oil sands found mostly in Western Canada are easier to process and are being mined commercially.

"Shale gas" comes from hydrocarbon-rich shale formations. Click here for a DOE primer on shale gas development in the U.S. There's a map on page ES-2 with the locations of major shale plays including Haynesville, Marcellus, Woodford, and Fayetteville.

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