DoE offers new funding for subsurface, leak detection tech
July 31, 2017
US government department looks for technologies and research projects to aid unconventional production, as well as offshore leak monitoring
As US unconventional production shows little sign of giving up the ground and market share it has achieved during the long, hard few years since prices receded, efficiency gains and research into new technology are maintaining their pace. The government is also fighting hard to ensure those efficiencies endure.
In late June, the US Department of Energy (DoE) announced it would make US$20 million of new funding available for cost-shared oil and gas research projects, with a focus on technology and research which can help increase recovery efficiency from unconventional oil and gas wells and prevent offshore spills and leaks.
“This oil and gas research funding opportunity underscores the Department’s commitment to developing all of the nation’s energy resources,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Doug Hollett. “Increased efficiency and reliability of preventative and recovery measures promote our energy security, and contribute to making the United States energy dominant.”
According to the DoE, projects are aimed at three areas: two focused on boosting the recovery of unconventional oil and gas resources, and one on helping prevent offshore oil and gas leaks.
Of the total funding available, US$15 million will be used to validate existing or developing technologies using field laboratories. For this topic, the DoE divides technologies into two camps: those that can aid existing unconventional resource (heavy oil, shale gas, tight gas or tight oil) plays under active development and production exceeding 50,000 boepd, and those for emerging unconventional resource plays where there is currently under 50,000 boepd of production.
Projects could include hydraulic fracturing studies such as fracture development and propagation, fluid and proppant emplacement, reservoir response and stimulated rock volume, as well as research into understanding petrophysical, geological, and geochemical conditions of reservoir rock and seals.
New technologies to improve drainage volume and resource recovery efficiency are of interest, as well as real-time, “ahead of the bit,” remote sensing technology and smart technologies – the DoE uses the examples of “smart” drilling mud and cement.
Deeper understanding A further US$ 3million will be made available for advancements in subsurface diagnostics. The DoE notes that these two areas address critical gaps in the understanding of reservoir behaviour and optimal completion, stimulation and recovery strategies for unconventional oil and gas. This could include technologies or research projects aimed at digitised datasets for subsurface geology, permeability and faults; techniques that measure changes in subsurface stress magnitudes and/or directions during water injection activities, as well as tools and technologies, and methods to forecast, mitigate and manage the risk of induced seismicity. Research may also be focused on new physics-based geomechanical models, new methods of processing existing geophysical data, as well as distributed temperature sensing (DTS) and distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) fibre optics, among other topics.
Meanwhile, US$2 million will be made available to investigate research and technology to help offshore oil and gas spill and leak prevention. Here, the aim is to aid the development of solutions that predict geological hazards, and prepare for and prevent offshore incidents through risk reduction and mitigation technologies. Of interest, it says, are solutions for improving the mapping and modelling of sub-salt sediments (to help determine whether areas are more prone than others to overpressure and “especially those focused directly on reducing the risk of blow-outs in an active exploration area in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.”
It also mentions technologies for well control, including geochemical sensors for monitoring in-situ fluids, as well as subsurface and subsea monitoring systems, processes to prevent hydrate formations and well integrity solutions. All in all, the call for proposals opens up a wealth of territory for US innovators. Those with potential solutions are advised to read the additional information available via the National Energy Technology Laboratory website.