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DOE to award up to $88M for oil and natural gas recovery research

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Fossil Energy announced up to $88 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects enhancing technologies for oil and natural gas recovery under two separate funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the projects selected under both FOAs.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), proved reserves of US crude oil and natural gas reached record highs in 2017, topping previous records at 39.2 billion barrels. In addition, proved reserves of natural gas resources reached 464.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2017, beating the 2014 record of 388.8 Tcf. EIA also notes that shale gas made up 66 percent of total proved reserves of natural gas in 2017. This success in proved reserves of both oil and gas are due in part to DOE’s research programs.

However, despite the large volumes of oil and gas currently being produced from U.S. conventional and unconventional resources, a majority of US oil remains in the ground; in some cases approximately 90% of in situ oil is not recovered with current technologies.

The first funding opportunity is for $44 million under DE-FOA-0001988, Advanced Technologies for Enhanced Oil Recovery.

Common conventional enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods currently in practice include miscible gas injection (both flooding and huff-n-puff); thermal technologies (steam flooding and steam huff-n-puff); and chemically enhanced waterflooding (e.g., surfactant, alkaline and polymer flooding).

Carbon Dioxide miscible flooding is the most common EOR method, responsible for about 293,000 barrels per day of incremental US oil production in 2014. Thermal methods are the second most popular, accounting for about 285,000 barrels per day in 2014.

However, a study performed for DOE by Advanced Resources International estimates that carbon dioxide miscible flooding alone, if applied to all amenable reservoirs, could increase domestic oil production by 3 to 4 million barrels per day.

The objectives of this FOA are to solicit and competitively seek research applications to accelerate the development and application of technologies for enhancing the recovery of petroleum from both onshore conventional and unconventional reservoirs through the injection of chemical, miscible, or thermal fluids.

The projects selected under this FOA will focus on reducing technical risks associated with EOR and expanding the application of EOR methods onshore, both in conventional and unconventional reservoirs. The projects will also improve the understanding of unconventional reservoirs and improve recovery factors for these plays. Concept papers must be submitted by 25 January 2019. DOE anticipates selecting up to six projects for this FOA.

The second opportunity, also for $44 million in funding under DE-FOA-0001990, Advanced Technologies for Recovery of Unconventional Oil & Gas Resources, will support projects to enhance the characterization of emerging unconventional plays and to improve the ultimate recovery of oil and gas resources from unconventional reservoirs.

Unconventional Oil and Gas (UOG) development has significantly increased US production of oil and natural gas over the past decade. The EIA estimates that crude oil production from unconventional (tight oil) reservoirs has increased from 16.5% of total US production in 2008 (0.8 million barrels of oil per day (MMb/d)) to 56.5% of total US production in 2018 (5.6 MMb/d).

Over the same period, natural gas production from unconventional reservoirs has also increased from 16.8% of total US production (3.4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf)) to 56.6% of total US production (16.4 Tcf). Based on the EIA’s 2018 Annual Energy Outlook, these trends are expected to continue through 2050 when UOG resources are projected to contribute 70.1% of total US oil production (7.9 MMb/d) and 76.1% of total U.S. natural gas production (32.7 Tcf).

Based on these projections, UOG production from existing and emerging plays will continue to play a vital role in US energy through 2050.

While the combination of extended-lateral horizontal drilling and high volume hydraulic fracturing has led to these significant production increases, the full potential of US UOG resources has yet to be realized. The recovery efficiency of UOG is difficult to bound, but the limited information available suggests that recovery factors are often extremely low, perhaps 20% in gas-rich shale reservoirs and less than 10% in liquid-rich plays.

This FOA seeks applications which propose research to develop tools, methods, and/or technologies that 1) improve the ultimate recovery of UOG resources and 2) improve the understanding and economic viability of emerging UOG plays. These tools, methods and/or technologies are expected to be demonstrated in a relevant field environment or validated under relevant laboratory conditions. Successful technologies will increase the understanding of UOG reservoir behavior to improve recovery efficiency and/or expand the development of emerging UOG plays.

Full applications are due 25 February 2019.


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