DOE: Coal Project to Boost Stripper Wells
The Department of Energy (DOE) announced last week it will fund
a Billings, MT, company's proposal to further refine and test a
coal-based filtering product that could remove the impurities in
the water produced by stripper gas wells, thereby greatly reducing
waste-water disposal costs for producers and royalty owners. In the
end, the DOE believes the product has the potential to
significantly prolong the life of the thousands of stripper gas
wells in the United States.
The department plans to award $132,000 to Western SynCoal LLC,
which also has earmarked $28,000 of its own money to study, test
and evaluate what could be a "promising" spinoff application of the
coal-based product, called SynCoal, in stripper gas wells. DOE
selected Western SynCoal's proposal in the third and final round of
competition among projects aimed at extending the life of stripper
The coal-based product, which was originally intended as a
low-sulfur fuel for power plants, is so economical that, if
successful, it could cut the water-disposal costs for low-volume
gas wells by up to 70%, according to DOE. Such "dramatic" cost
savings would enhance the economics of thousands of stripper wells
nationwide, allowing gas to continue flowing that might otherwise
be shut in.
In the lower 48 states, DOE estimated more than half of all
onshore gas wells are classified as low-volume stripper wells.
Typically, each of the more than 191,000 wells in this category
produces about 16 Mcf/d. Combined, the wells account for about 8%
of U.S. daily gas production, which equates to about 1.2 Bcf/d, the
department said, but it added that their numbers are growing. In
the past seven years, about 30,000 gas wells have been reclassified
as stripper wells. As their production declines, many are being
plugged and abandoned.
A major reason has been the cost of waste water disposal
associated with these wells, the DOE said. As the flow of gas
declines, the influx of water in these stripper wells increases.
Gas producers often must truck the waste water to disposal wells
that are located several miles from the production site. Excluding
trucking costs, DOE estimated that waste water disposal can cost as
much as $2 per barrel.
Western SynCoal's novel filtering system, which researchers
believe will be ideal for filtering contaminated waste water from
stripper wells, will be tested at an existing gas production
facility owned and operated by North American Resources Co. (NARCo)
of Denver, CO. NARCo owns and operates about 450 stripper gas wells
in the Denver-Julesberg Basin in Colorado. Both NARCo and Western
SynCoal are affiliates of Montana Power. The project will be
managed by DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory.
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