Possibility of shale oil prompts buying frenzy in Nebraska panhandle

Bruce Evertson has been drilling for oil in Nebraska for decades.

He started working on drilling rigs more than 40 years ago and is now CEO of Evertson Cos., the largest oil producer in Nebraska.

Working from his offices in Kimball, Evertson said he’s drilled hundreds of wells in the Niobrara Shale, a 90-million-year-old geological formation of mostly shale and limestone under parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming.

And in all that time, “I’ve never seen a show in the Niobrara Shale in Nebraska,” he said.

Based on his experience, Evertson is not optimistic the Niobrara Shale is going to lead to a new oil boom in Nebraska.

But he admits that a lot of people think he’s wrong. “There are a lot of people who have put up a lot of money for leases who disagree with me,” he said.

The success in extracting oil from other shale formations in the United States — most notably the Bakken Shale in North Dakota — along with oil prices that have spiked above $110 a barrel, has sparked interest in the Niobrara Shale.

Richard Endacott, executive secretary and chief executive officer of the Nebraska Bureau of Educational Lands & Funds, said the board’s last two auctions of oil and gas leases have been the most lucrative in its history.

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