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DOE soliciting projects for improving environmental performance of unconventional natural gas technologies; $35M in funding

Research projects to study ways for improving the environmental performance of unconventional gas development are being sought by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), a facility of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy.

Total funding level is around $35 million; minimum cost share requirement are 20% for R&D projects and 50% for demonstration projects.

The research opportunity was released in a request for proposals (RFP) issued by NETL’s contractor, the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), with a deadline of 6 March 2012. A second RFP, focusing on the needs of small oil and natural gas producers, was released earlier on 13 December, and will close February 27, 2012.

Proposals may be directed toward gas shale resources, tight gas resources, or both as applied in one or more of four specific topic areas:

  • Minimizing surface disruption associated with unconventional gas development and disposal of associated wastes. For example, developing improved methods for reducing the site impact of drilling individual wells and increasing the reach associated with multiple wells drilled from a single pad, so that larger portions of a producing reservoir may be accessed from a given surface facility.

    Alternatively, developing improved stimulation methods to increase the producible volume of the reservoir associated with an individual well or develop methods to characterize subsurface properties so that subsurface zones with poor productivity are not drilled.

    Other examples include quantifying and characterizing constituents in waste streams resulting from drilling and production operations and develop technologies to treat them; or developing methods for treating, disposal, or recycling of solid waste material associated with unconventional gas development, including drill cuttings.

  • Developing improved methods of protecting groundwater from contamination during shale gas well drilling, casing and cementing, and production operations. Examples in this topic area include developing technologies and methodologies to mitigate the risks to groundwater resources that may be associated with shale gas development; developing improved cement evaluation and pressure testing wireline tools for assuring casing and cementing integrity; and accelerating the development of greener additives for stimulation and completion operatons.

  • Maximizing the efficiency of hydraulic fracturing operations to minimize environmental impact by minimizing total fluid requirement. Examples include developing improved approaches to control the size and orientation of the stimulated zone; developing methods to increase the volume and permeability of the zone stimulated with a given amount of fracturing fluid; and developing methods, processes and materials for use in hydraulic fracturing operations that minimize formation damage, improve stimulation effectiveness, and decrease the need for refracture treatments. This may include research to understand how fracture fluids and additives interact with the shale matrix.

  • Developing improved approaches for managing the fluids used in unconventional gas development. Examples here include developing advanced technologies to improve fracturing water sourcing, handling, treatment, and disposal;developing alternative stimulation approaches that are effective but require less water use; developing technologies and methodologies for handling and disposal of large volumes of flowback water, as well as water that is produced during the longer term production phase; and evaluating options for water recycling and re-use, and barriers to more widespread use of these options.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), signed into law in August 2005, added another dimension to DOE’s overall oil and natural gas research and development effort. EPAct’s Title IX, Subtitle J, Section 999 (the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research Program) enhanced opportunities to demonstrate technologies in the field and accelerate their implementation in the marketplace. This program is a public/private partnership valued at $400 million over 8 years.



Excellent and very appropriate idea.

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