A Canadian company with a lease to develop Utah oil sands plans to use a new citrus-based solvent that "will cut the cost and reduce the energy needed to separate oil from sand, lowering the environmental impact," reports Reuters.

Writes Scott Haggert:

Utah may seem an unlikely choice for a Canadian company looking to start an oil sands mine.

However, the state accounts for the lion's share of U.S. oil sands deposits that the U.S. Geological Survey estimates hold 57 billion barrels of oil, only a fraction of which can ever be recovered.

In contrast, Alberta has 170 billion barrels of recoverable reserves in its Athabasca region. The Utah oil sands have been tapped for other uses such as road asphalt, but not for heavy oil.

Utah has approved PR Spring despite opposition from green groups that say such projects threaten watersheds. In the case of PR Spring, that means the Colorado River, the main source of drinking water for nearly 40 million Americans.

"It's just totally inappropriate," John Weisheit, conservation director for the environmental group Living Rivers. "This has massive consequences to air, water and land."

Living Rivers has already lost one challenge to the project in Utah's courts. Weisheit says more are possible.