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DOE Banking on Six Projects to Advance Oil, NatGas Production Techniques

Six U.S. projects to test technologies for oil and natural gas development, including four in unconventional plays, have been selected by the Department of Energy (DOE) to receive $30 million total for cost-shared research and development.

The projects, selected by the Office of Fossil Energy (FE) within its Advanced Technology Solutions for Unconventional Oil and Gas Developmentfunding opportunity, are to address critical gaps in understanding reservoir behavior and optimal well-completion strategies, next-generation subsurface diagnostic technologies and advanced offshore technologies.

Field projects were solicited in emerging unconventional plays with less than 50,000 b/d of current production, including the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) and the Huron Shale in Virginia.

“The newly selected projects will help us master oil and gas development in these types of rising shales, along with bolstering 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 resource development technologies, and ensure the maximum value of the nation’s resource endowment is realized,” officials said.

Four of the awards are focused on U.S. onshore research. The Institute of Gas Technology (IGT) in Des Moines, IL, was awarded $7.94 million by DOE and another $12.59 million from outside sources, including oil and gas producers, to test hydraulic fracturing techniques in the Permian Basin’s Delaware sub-basin.

IGT plans to carry out multiple experiments to evaluate well completion, design optimization and environmental impact quantification using a fracture test site experimental well in West Texas targeting the Wolfcamp formation. Anadarko Production Corp. and Shell Exploration and Production Co., which jointly operate in an area of mutual interest in the Permian, agreed to host the test site on their acreage.

DOE awarded $8 million to Texas A&M University’s Engineering Experiment Station in College Station, TX, with another $2 million provided by outside sources, for the Eagle Ford Shale Laboratory. The field study is to test stimulated reservoir volume, fracture characteristics and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) potential. Technology would be tested for initial stimulation/production and enhanced recovery using refracturing and EOR methods.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is to receive $3.68 million from DOE and another $5.98 million from outside sources for its TMS Laboratory to enable “more cost-efficient and environmentally sound recovery” from the unconventional liquid-rich play.

“The TMS has been estimated to contain 7 billion bbl of recoverable light, sweet crude oil, while its current total average production is only about 3,000 b/d,” DOE noted. “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.”

The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA, is receiving almost $8 million in DOE funds and another $3.15 million in outside funding to advance a field laboratory for emerging stacked unconventional plays in Central Appalachia. The lab is to investigate and characterize “the resource potential for multi-play production of emerging unconventional reservoirs in the Nora gas field of southwest Virginia.”

The Nora project is to evaluate and quantify the benefits of “novel completion strategies for lateral wells in the unconventional Lower Huron Shale,” with a major objective to characterize the geology and potential deep pay zones of Cambrian-age formations. A second objective is to evaluate and quantify the potential benefits of well-completion strategies in the emerging (and technologically accessible) Lower Huron Shale.

For the offshore, the DOE also awarded funds for two major projects.

C-Crete Technologies Inc., headquartered near Houston in Stafford, is receiving $1.5 million from DOE and $375,000 in additional funds to test hexagonal boron nitride reinforced multifunctional well cement for extreme conditions -- basically a next-generation cement to prevent offshore spills and leaks.

DOE also awarded the Colorado School of Mines trustees in Golden, CO, nearly $1.5 million, while $374,000 was provided from outside sources for a study of in-situ applied coatings for mitigating gas hydrate deposition in deepwater. Research is to focus on developing and validating coatings to prevent hydrate deposits in undersea pipelines.

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