Improved development and drainage of shale plays is among the topics researchers at the University of Texas (UT) will investigate as part of an energy partnership agreement signed by UT and Statoil in Austin, TX, Monday.

Under terms of the agreement Norway-based Statoil will provide UT with $1 million annually for five years; in return the university will provide research on shale plays, as well as the integration of geological, geophysical and petrophysical data in earth models, trap integrity in salt basins (sub-salt imaging and seal versus pore pressure challenges) and drainage of deep marine reservoirs (static and dynamic reservoir models and drainage methods). The agreement is Statoil's largest of its kind outside Norway and the company's first such agreement with a university in the United States.

The agreement "is vital for Statoil's long-term ambitions in the U.S.," according to Statoil officials.

"We plan to significantly grow our activities in the United States and Canada," said Bill Maloney, executive vice president for Statoil in North America. "Universities and academic institutions in North America represent important arenas for Statoil in research and competence development, both on a regional and global level."

Statoil holds material positions in the Marcellus and Eagle Ford shales. Statoil moved into the Marcellus early with a $3.38 billion deal in late 2008 that gives it essentially 32.5% of everything Chesapeake Energy Corp. had in the Marcellus (see Daily GPI, Nov. 12, 2008). Last year Statoil agreed to acquire additional acreage in the Marcellus from Chesapeake (see Daily GPI, March 29, 2010). Statoil and Calgary-based Talisman Energy Inc. last October formed a joint venture to acquire 97,000 net acres of liquids-rich Eagle Ford properties from Enduring Resources for US$1.325 billion (see Shale Daily, Oct. 12, 2010).

Statoil and its subsidiaries have also recently signed deals to construct a shale gas gathering system in Susquehanna County, PA (see Shale Daily, Sept. 2), provide ethane from shale plays for an ethane cracker in Corunna, ON, (see Shale Daily, Aug. 2) and increase the availability of natural gas midstream services in the Marcellus Shale of West Virginia (see Shale Daily, March 10).

Statoil also has interests in six producing fields in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico and two producing fields offshore Newfoundland, and operates the Kai Kos Dehseh oil sands project in Alberta.