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Projects Selected to Boost Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources

September 27, 2010 - 1:00pm


Washington, DC - Ten projects focused on two technical areas aimed at increasing the nation’s supply of "unconventional" fossil energy, reducing potential environmental impacts, and expanding carbon dioxide (CO2) storage options have been selected for further development by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The projects include four that would develop advanced computer simulation and visualization capabilities to enhance understanding of ways to improve production and minimize environmental impacts associated with unconventional energy development; and six seeking to further next generation CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to the point where it is ready for pilot (small) scale testing.

The total value of the projects is approximately $12.2 million, with $9 million of DOE funding and $3.2 million of non-Federal cost sharing. The research will be managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Unconventional fossil energy resources are those extracted using techniques other than those used for traditional oil or natural gas wells. Production from unconventional resources - which have the potential for increasing domestic oil and natural gas supply - often has more environmental and technology challenges than traditional methods.

Advancements in simulation and visualization technologies can provide improved assessments and understanding of the cumulative environmental impacts as well as model improved processes for advancing unconventional fossil energy recovery.

Easy-to-produce oil recovered from U.S. oil fields has an average recovery factor estimated at 35 percent. EOR - including techniques using advanced CO2 injection - offers prospects for additional recovery and ultimately producing up to 60 percent or more of the reservoir’s original oil in place. Additionally, permanent geologic storage of the injected CO2 has implications for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, viewed by many experts as an important component of a portfolio strategy for reducing human-generated CO2 emissions.

Although one of these techniques, CO2 miscible flooding is the fastest growing EOR process in the United States (currently about 5 percent of total domestic oil output), the CO2-EOR process is limited by technology, cost, and geographic availability of CO2. The selected projects will focus on technology improvements needed to increase the efficiency of the process, including providing advanced tools and methods, as well as valuable laboratory, field, and modeling data analyses.

Details are as follows:

Area 1: Advanced Simulation and Visualization

  • NITEC LLC (Denver, Colo.)--A Full-Featured, User Friendly CO2-EOR and Sequestration Planning Software. NITEC will develop an integrated software tool with state-of-the-art user interfaces and technically rigorous solutions (including Net Present Value) that will allow small- to mid-sized field operators to design and optimize CO2-EOR and sequestration operations in a short time frame. (DOE Share: $1,080,036; Recipient: $555,000; Duration: 24 months)  
  • The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas)--Simulations of Clean and Secure Energy from Domestic Stranded Oil in Residual Oil Zones. The UT Austin team will develop an advanced reservoir simulation and visualization tool with advanced features such as a mechanistic foam model for mobility control and a coupled geomechanical deformation model, to improve predictions of oil production from residual oil zones using CO2. (DOE Share: $799,558; Recipient: $199,884; Duration: 36 months)
  • University of Illinois/Illinois State Geological Survey (Champaign, Ill.)--RVA: 3-D Visualization and Analysis Software To Support Management of Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources. The Illinois State Geological Survey will develop an open‐source software application, Reservoir Visualization and Analysis (RVA), for advanced 3‐D visualization and analysis of geologic models and reservoir simulation results for unconventional oil and gas reservoirs. (DOE Share: $709,911; Recipient: $191,061; Duration: 36 months)
  • UTA - Bureau of Economic Geology (Austin, Texas)-- Measuring Fracture Density and Orientation in Unconventional Reservoirs with Simple-Source Vertical Seismic Profiles. The Bureau of Economic Geology will team with GEDCO to develop and demonstrate a technology of using vertical-force seismic sources combined with vertical seismic profile (VSP) to provide a seismic "log" of natural fracture orientation and density in unconventional reservoirs. (DOE Share: $416,688; Recipient: $104,172; Duration: 24 months)

Area 2: Next-Generation Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Oil Recovery 

  • Impact Technologies LLC (Tulsa, Okla.)--Improved Mobility Control in CO2 Enhanced Recovery Using SPI Gels. Impact Technologies in partnership with CTI, Talee R., and Redcorn, will demonstrate, in a set of injectivity tests in both "Huff & Puff" and conventional pattern flood applications, the ease of use and potential of CO2 injection/ production profile modifications using SPI-CO2 gel systems. (DOE Share: $1,200,000; Recipient: $300,000; Duration: 36 months)
  • The University of Texas (Austin, Texas)--Use of Engineered Nanoparticle-Stabilized CO2 Foams To Improve Volumetric Sweep of CO2 EOR Processes. The UT Austin research will develop a new CO2 injection enhanced oil recovery process using engineered nanoparticles with optimized surface coatings that has better volumetric sweep efficiency and a wider application range than the conventional CO2 process. (DOE Share: $1,198,717; Recipient: $299,679; Duration: 36 months)
  • The University of Texas of the Permian Basin (Midland, Texas)--Next Generation CO2-EOR Technologies To Optimize the Residual Oil Zone CO2 Flood at the Goldsmith Landreth Unit, Ector County, Texas. The UT of the Permian Basin will team up with Legado Resources, Meltzer Consulting, and Advanced Research International to develop a new CO2 injection enhanced oil recovery process using engineered nanoparticles with optimized surface coatings that has better volumetric sweep efficiency and a wider application range than the conventional CO2 process. (DOE Share: $1,198,547; Recipient: $654,563; Duration: 36 months)
  • Sky Research, Inc. (Ashland, Ore.)--Development of Real Time Semi Autonomous Geophysical Data Acquisition and Processing System To Monitor Flood Performance. Sky Research in partnership with PNNL will work on the design, development, and validation of a real time, semi autonomous geophysical data acquisition and processing system using electromagnetic technology to monitor CO2 flood performance (DOE Share: $496,847; Recipient: $180,425; Duration: 36 months)
  • The University of Texas (Austin, Texas)--Novel CO2 Foam Concepts and Injection Schemes for Improving CO2 Sweep Efficiency in Sandstone and Carbonate Hydrocarbon Formations. The UT Austin team will work in partnership with Rice University to develop mobility control agents using surfactants injected with CO2 (rather than in water) for CO2 enhanced oil recovery in heterogeneous carbonate and sandstone reservoirs (DOE Share: $1,134,984; Recipient: $283,746; Duration: 36 months)
  • New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology/Petroleum Recovery Research Center (Socorro, N.M.)--Nanoparticle-Stabilized CO2 Foam for CO2-EOR Application. The Petroleum Recovery Research Center team will develop and evaluate, through coreflood tests at reservoir conditions, a nanoparticle-stabilized CO2 foam system that can improve CO2 sweep efficiency in CO2 EOR and minimize particle retention in the reservoir (DOE Share: $772,934; Recipient: $385,888; Duration: 36 months).