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A Shell executive said he's bullish about the company's research on extracting oil from rock in western Colorado, adding that the project could become reality by the middle of the next decade.

John Hofmeister, the head of Royal Dutch Shell's U.S. unit, and other officials have been encouraged for the past year since they concluded that the oil-shale technology was viable.

"We know the technology works," Davis said, after Hofmeister's remarks to Bloomberg News. "The thing is we have to determine whether it works on a commercial scale."

The decision to invest in oil-shale production probably will be made "no earlier" than 2010, she added.

The energy giant continues to wait for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management - the arm of the Interior Department that manages federal land - to approve a lease of terrain for oil-shale development.

The company, Davis said, is hopeful that the OK from the BLM will come by the end of 2006.,2777,DRMN_23914_5088904,00.html

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