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Five Gas Research Projects Get DOE Funding

Five Gas Research Projects Get DOE Funding

Five natural gas projects valued at more than $7 million will get partial funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, which will spend $4.7 million to fund innovations in the industry. The projects include a 3D seismic imaging study on deep water hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico and another on tools that will drill in arctic conditions.

The University of Texas at Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology plans to spend two years studying the use of multi-component, 3D seismic imaging on hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico. The study will focus on how hydrates and rock types are distributed through sediments and how the sediments are bound together, which could enhance safety in producing hydrate gas in deepwater projects. DOE will pay $700,000 of the $880,000 project cost.

Another project, headed up by NANA Development Corp. of Anchorage, AK, will design tools, techniques and algorithms to drill slim-hole wells under arctic conditions. The idea is to develop a concept design for a mobile rig that eventually could drill gas wells to fuel remote Alaskan villages. This two-year project, which will cost $1.06 million, will receive $440,000 from DOE.

A salt cavern storage project, field tested by Respec Co. of Rapid City, SD, will work on technology to improve the volume of gas that may be extracted efficiently and economically. The company already has adapted a mathematical model to dispose of nuclear waste in salt domes, and now will use this to determine the minimum pressure for storage caverns. The model will be tested at two Bay Gas Storage Co. caverns near Mobile, AL.

"Even modest improvements in storage capacity efficiencies could increase the amount of working gas capacity in existing salt caverns," said DOE in a statement.

Respec Co. estimates that if the technique works, it could provide as much as 13 Bcf of additional working gas capacity from salt dome sites. Respec said there are 29 U.S. salt dome sites with about 125 Bcf of capacity. This project is expected to last 22 months, and DOE will pay $277,000 of the total $374,000 total cost.

Pennsylvania State and the University of Tulsa plan to design an industry-driven stripper gas well consortium to identify and fund research for reservoir remediation, wellbore cleanup and surface system upgrades. DOE will provide $3 million for this project, and the universities will kick in $1.3 million over three years.

The fifth project, also undertaken by Penn State, will have university researchers and Dennis Tool Co. of Houston developing a microwave sintering process to enhance the durability of composition-grade drill bit materials formed from diamond composites, tungsten carbide and other metals. DOE estimates the process would take one-tenth the time of conventional bonding methods, and thus produce bits that would wear longer and perform up to 30% better than conventional parts.

DOE will pay about half, or $323,000, of the $646,000 two-year project.

Carolyn Davis, Houston

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