DOE research funding targets development of small, rising shale basins

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected six projects to receive approximately US$30 million in funding for cost-shared research and development in unconventional oil and natural gas recovery.

The projects will address gaps in understanding of reservoir behaviour and optimal well-completion strategies, next-generation subsurface diagnostic technologies and advanced offshore technologies, targeting “rising shales” such as the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale and the Huron Shale, the DOE said. It solicited field projects in emerging unconventional plays with less than 50,000 barrels per day of current production.

Descriptions of each selected project are as follows:

• Hexagonal Boron Nitride Reinforced Multifunctional Well Cement for Extreme Conditions—C-Crete Technologies LLC (Stafford, Texas) will provide a systems approach for developing the next generation of well cement. This cement will prevent offshore spills and leakages at extreme high-temperature, high-pressure, and corrosive conditions. A proof-of-concept hexagonal boron-nitride/cement composite will be developed and tuned to offer optimum slurry formulation and rheological properties, and the best hybrid nanostructure. DOE funding: $1,500,000; non-DOE funding: $375,000.

• Hydraulic Fracture Test Site II (HFTS2) Delaware Basin—The Institute of Gas Technology (Des Moines, Illinois) will carry out multiple experiments to evaluate well completion, design optimization and environmental impact quantification. The Institute will conduct these experiments using a hydraulic fracture test site experimental well in the Delaware Basin portion of the Permian Basin of Western Texas—specifically targeting the Wolfcamp formation. Anadarko Production Company and Shell Exploration and Production Company have both agreed to host the test site on their acreage. DOE funding: $7,974,000; non-DOE funding: $12,590,000.

• Eagle Ford Shale Laboratory: A Field Study of the Stimulated Reservoir Volume, Detailed Fracture Characteristics and EOR Potential – Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (College Station, Texas) will improve the effectiveness of shale oil production by providing new scientific knowledge and monitoring technology. The technology will be for initial stimulation/production as well as enhanced recovery via refracturing and enhanced oil recovery methods. This research will enable operators of thousands of existing fractured horizontal wells to better select refracturing candidates and design refracture treatments. Researchers will also gain knowledge about created fracture geometry when the two new production wells are monitored with high-resolution distributed sensing technologies during fracturing. DOE funding: $8,000,000; non-DOE funding: $2,000,000.

• In-Situ Applied Coatings for Mitigating Gas Hydrate Deposition in Deepwater Operations—The Trustees of the Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado) will develop and validate robust pipeline coatings to prevent deposits of hydrates in undersea oil pipelines. These coatings, for field and commercial deployment, are critical in offshore leak and spill prevention. The coating system can be applied in situ to treat existing flowlines. The technology will aid in flow assurance by decreasing the need for hydrate treatments and by avoiding plugging and subsequent safety and environmental consequences of the flowline. According to the DOE, it will be a major, fundamental breakthrough in hydrate science and engineering, and is critical to deepwater field operations. DOE funding: $1,498,000; non-DOE funding: $374,000.

• Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Laboratory (TMSL) – University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Lafayette, Louisiana) will address knowledge gaps regarding the unconventional liquid-rich Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) play. The TMS has been estimated to contain seven billion barrels of recoverable light, sweet crude oil, while its current total average production is only about 3,000 barrels of oil per day. 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. DOE funding: $3,680,000; non-DOE funding: $5,977,000.

• Field Laboratory for Emerging Stacked Unconventional Plays (ESUP) in Central Appalachia – Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia) will investigate and characterize the resource potential for multi-play production of emerging unconventional reservoirs in the Nora Gas Field of southwest Virginia. The project will evaluate and quantify the benefits of novel completion strategies for lateral wells in the unconventional Lower Huron Shale. A major research objective of the project is to characterize the geology and potential deep pay zones of Cambrian-age formations in Central Appalachia. A second research objective is to evaluate and quantify the potential benefits of novel well-completion strategies in the emerging (and technologically accessible) Lower Huron Shale. DOE funding: $7,999,000; non-DOE funding: $3,146,000.