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For sale: The Teapot Dome oil field, scandal not included

Apr. 17, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
The Energy Department's Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center, formerly known as the Teapot Done Field, is up for sale.
The Energy Department's Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center, formerly known as the Teapot Done Field, is up for sale. (Energy Dept.)

A plot of land that has become synonymous with corruption and scandal will be up for sale by the end of the year – and it could be yours.

The Energy Department is looking to sell the Teapot Dome Field – now known as Naval Petroleum Reserve 3 and the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center – by the end of the year. It’s about 35 miles north of Casper, Wyo.

The oil field was originally named after a rock shaped like a teapot and its adjoining Teapot Dome creek but became famous for the 1922 secret leasing of the land to private oil companies by then-Interior Secretary Albert Fall. He was ultimately charged with bribery for accepting money and gifts in exchange for several favorable leases.

And no it does not include the rock, which is located several miles away from the land.

The field covers about 9,500 acres and was closed after the 1920s scandal. But in 1976, the government reopened the field for full development and transferred the land to the Energy Department. Now the land is used to test new oil drilling, recovery and environmental protection technologies. In 2013, the land generated $6.3 million in revenue – but cost $3.4 million in environmental remediation efforts and $3.3 million to operate the site.

But oil company could also increase production - which has been hampered by budget cuts- and make more money than current operations, according to a 2013 Energy Department report to Congress.

But it was Fall’s other oil lease at Elk Hills Oil Field in California that eventually did him in, said Clark Turner, the director of the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center, who is still wondering why the scandal took the name of his particular oil field.

And while the historic nature of the oil field might not make it more attractive to oil companies looking to increase production on the land, it will help publicize the sale and generate more interest, Turner said.

“I think that will allow much more visibility to occur, which will then get it in front of much more people and get a better price,” Turner said.

First, the agency will auction off the equipment over the course of 2014 through online auctions run by the General Services Administration. Then it will start accepting bids for the land, Turner said.

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