The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the selection of six projects to receive approximately $30 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development in unconventional oil and natural gas recovery.
The projects, selected under the Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE’s) Advanced Technology Solutions for Unconventional Oil and Gas Development funding opportunity, will address critical gaps in our understanding of reservoir behavior and optimal well-completion strategies, next-generation subsurface diagnostic technologies, and advanced offshore technologies.
As part of the funding opportunity announcement and at the direction of Congress, DOE solicited field projects in emerging unconventional plays with less than 50,000 barrels per day of current production, such as the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale and the Huron Shale. The newly selected projects will help us master oil and gas development in these types of rising shales, along with bolster DOE efforts to strengthen America’s energy dominance, protect air and water quality, position the nation as a global leader in unconventional oil and natural gas (UOG) resource development technologies, and ensure the maximum value of the nation’s resource endowment is realized.
All six projects represent a critical component of DOE’s portfolio to advance the economic viability and environmentally sound development of domestic UOG resources and support ongoing programmatic efforts in both onshore and offshore UOG research. These efforts include (1) improving understanding of the processes involved in resource development; (2) advancing technologies and engineering practices to ensure these resources are developed efficiently with minimal environmental impact and risk; and (3) increasing the supply of U.S. oil and natural gas resources to enhance national energy dominance and security.
Descriptions of each selected project follow:
- Hexagonal Boron Nitride Reinforced Multifunctional Well Cement for Extreme Conditions—C-Crete Technologies LLC (Stafford, TX) will provide a systems approach for developing the next generation of well cement. This cement will prevent offshore spills and leakages at extreme high-temperature, high-pressure, and corrosive conditions. A proof-of-concept hexagonal boron-nitride/cement composite will be developed and tuned to offer optimum slurry formulation and rheological properties, and the best hybrid nanostructure. By preventing offshore spills and leakages at extreme conditions, this project will increase cost-efficiency and production, mitigate risk over the productive life of the wells, and improve environmental and worker safety. DOE Funding: $1,500,000; Non-DOE Funding: $375,000; Total Value: $1,875,000
- Hydraulic Fracture Test Site II (HFTS2) – Delaware Basin—The Institute of Gas Technology (Des Moines, IL) will carry out multiple experiments to evaluate well completion, design optimization, and environmental impact quantification. The Institute will conduct these experiments using a hydraulic fracture test site experimental well in the Delaware Basin portion of the Permian Basin of Western Texas—specifically targeting the Wolfcamp formation. Anadarko Production Company and Shell Exploration and Production Company have both agreed to host the test site on their acreage. DOE Funding: $7,974,000; Non-DOE Funding: $12,590,000; Total Value: $20,564,000
- Eagle Ford Shale Laboratory: A Field Study of the Stimulated Reservoir Volume, Detailed Fracture Characteristics, and EOR Potential – Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (College Station, TX) will improve the effectiveness of shale oil production by providing new scientific knowledge and monitoring technology. This technology will be for initial stimulation/production as well as enhanced recovery via refracturing and enhanced oil recovery methods. This research will enable operators of thousands of existing fractured horizontal wells to better select refracturing candidates and design refracture treatments. Researchers will also gain knowledge about created fracture geometry when the two new production wells are monitored with high-resolution distributed sensing technologies during fracturing. DOE Funding: $8,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $2,000,000; Total Value: $10,000,000
- In-Situ Applied Coatings for Mitigating Gas Hydrate Deposition in Deepwater Operations—The Trustees of the Colorado School of Mines (Golden, CO) will develop and validate robust pipeline coatings to prevent deposits of hydrates in undersea oil pipelines. These coatings, for field and commercial deployment, are critical in offshore leak and spill prevention. The coating system can be applied in situ to treat existing flowlines. This technology will aid in flow assurance by decreasing the need for hydrate treatments and by avoiding plugging and subsequent safety and environmental consequences of the flowline. It will be a major, fundamental breakthrough in hydrate science and engineering, and is critical to deepwater field operations. DOE Funding: $1,498,000; Non-DOE Funding: $374,000; Total Value: $1,872,000
- Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Laboratory (TMSL) – University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Lafayette, LA) will address knowledge gaps regarding the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS), enabling more cost-efficient and environmentally sound recovery from this unconventional liquid-rich shale play. The TMS has been estimated to contain 7 billion barrels of recoverable light, sweet crude oil, while its current total average production is only about 3,000 barrels of oil per day. Development of the TMS in eastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi could significantly impact local communities economically. However, over the past several decades, operators have been unsuccessful in the TMS play, in part due to its clay-rich nature which makes it sensitive to water. Improved understanding of the TMS, along with public scientific assessment of new approaches for developing the play, will expand and accelerate industry efforts to cultivate this resource with minimal environmental impact. DOE Funding: $3,680,000; Non-DOE Funding: $5,977,000; Total Value: $9,657,000
- Field Laboratory for Emerging Stacked Unconventional Plays (ESUP) in Central Appalachia – Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University(Blacksburg, VA) will investigate and characterize the resource potential for multi-play production of emerging unconventional reservoirs in the Nora Gas Field of southwest Virginia. There the project will evaluate and quantify the benefits of novel completion strategies for lateral wells in the unconventional Lower Huron Shale. A major research objective of the project is to characterize the geology and potential deep pay zones of Cambrian-age formations in Central Appalachia. A second major research objective is to evaluate and quantify the potential benefits of novel well-completion strategies in the emerging (and technologically accessible) Lower Huron Shale. This research will improve understanding of the geology and resource potential of the Cambrian Rogersville Shale and produce research-driven and industry-proven best practices to prudently develop these resources. DOE Funding: $7,999,000; Non-DOE Funding: $3,146,000; Total Value: $11,145,000