The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001076) for projects in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY2014) that focus on improving the environmental performance of unconventional oil and natural gas (UOG)—i.e., shale gas, tight oil, and tight gas—resource development. DOE expects approximately $25-35 million to be available for new awards under the FOA.
While in-place, unconventional resources are substantial, recovery efficiencies are commonly low in these reservoirs. Current industry practice includes decreasing well and frac stage spacing to increase overall recovery. The objective of the new FOA is to address critical gaps of knowledge of the characterization, basic subsurface science, and completion/stimulation strategies of tight oil, tight gas, and shale gas resources to enable more efficient resource recovery from fewer and less environmentally impactful wells.
DOE is considering two primary topic areas under the FOA: following Topic Areas are being considered: Field Validation using Dedicated Research Well(s) and/or Wells of Opportunity; and Prudent Shale Development.
Topic Area 1 – Field Validation using Dedicated Research Well(s) and/or Wells of Opportunity. Field validation of new knowledge or technology development is vital for understanding the nature of resource recovery as well as the cumulative environmental implications of UOG development.
While industry often provides opportunities for researchers to gather data and test new concepts, the timing, location, and other factors often preclude the ideal testing conditions, DOE notes. An alternative is to obtain a well(s) the applicant utilizes, as a dedicated research well or as a research well of opportunity to enable an open, collaborative, and integrated program of science and technology development/testing.
DOE is looking for applicants who will provide access to a well or development site and propose initial plans for scientific testing (subject to review and approval by DOE) that will allow for the collection of samples and data, and/or the testing and demonstration of advanced technologies. Research areas of specific interest for dedicated research wells may include, but are not limited to:
Assurance of long-term borehole integrity as well as isolation of production zones from overlying sources of drinking water via natural or other migration pathways.
Characterization of petrophysical, geological, geochemical, and microbiological conditions of reservoir rock and seals before, during, and after reservoir stimulation.
Demonstration of technologies for improved characterization/visualization of reservoir conditions, fracture development and propagation, fluid emplacement, reservoir response, and stimulated rock volume.
Baseline and real-time monitoring of the environmental impact on land, air, water, and communities as well as demonstration of mitigative technologies.
Testing and demonstration of new technologies and/or scientific insights that can lead to new approaches that can enable dramatic improvements in drainage radius and recovery efficiency.
Demonstration of the effectiveness of emerging environmental impact-mitigation technologies that have been developed with support of the DOE.
Topic Area 2 – Prudent Shale Development The environmental impacts of UOG development—particularly the cumulative and long-term impacts—remain poorly constrained, DOE said. In addition, current industry practice designed to increase recovery efficiency include approaches that have the potential to increase the overall environmental impact of development through significant increases in development intensity.
DOE is requesting applications designed to provide the science and technology to both minimize environmental impacts and improve the efficiency of UOG development.
DOE uses “efficiency” to refer to approaches that can increase primary recovery without increased well density or that can otherwise enable improved recovery from fewer and less-impactful wells.
Projects proposed under Topic Area 2 may include focused experimental, numerical simulation, and/or technology development activities related to any of the topics listed below; however, each project must include a field data collection, validation, and/or demonstration phase to be considered responsive.
Research areas of specific interest under this topic area include, but are not limited to the following critical gaps of knowledge of the characterization, basic subsurface science, and completion/stimulation strategies that will enable recovery from fewer and less environmentally-impactful wells.
Development of science and technology related to the assurance of the long-term integrity of boreholes.
Demonstration of technologies for improved characterization/visualization of fracture development, fluid emplacement, gas and fluid flow, and stimulated rock volume between and within wells.
Demonstration of technologies for the effective monitoring and mitigation of impacts to surface and groundwater resources, ambient air quality/impact, as well as other ecological impacts.
Development, validation, and demonstration of affordable non-water-based and non co2-based stimulation technologies, which can be used instead of, or in tandem with, water-based hydraulic fracturing to reduce water usage and volume of flowback fluids.
Testing and demonstration of new technologies, field development strategies, and/or scientific insights that can lead to new approaches that can enable dramatic improvements in per-well drainage radius and recovery efficiency, including the effects of water injection on reservoir petrophysics and the evaluation of the optimal use of stimulation fluids.
Development of reservoir characterization and interpretation technologies that enable improved prospect delineation and pre-drill assessment of geologic features to reduce the number of non-productive wells drilled, minimize the unproductive injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids, and to delineate subsurface zones that should not be developed due to enhanced risk for unwanted fluid migration.
DOE anticipates making 6 to twelve 12 awards under this announcement depending on the size of the awards. DOE anticipates making 1 to 2 awards for Topic Area 1 and 5 to 10 awards for Topic Area 2. Cost share must be at least 20%.