DOE selects universities' tight gas R&D projects

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, July 17 -- The US Department of Energy has selected projects from the University of Texas at Austin and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as cost-shared research and development efforts targeting low-permeability or tight gas formations.

Tight gas represents the largest of three domestic unconventional gas resources, the other two being coalbed methane and gas shales, DOE's fossil energy office said July 17 in announcing the selections.

DOE said tight gas production represented about 40% of total US output in 2004 but could grow to as much as 50% by 2030 if advanced technologies are developed and implemented.

Production is constrained because tight gas reservoir rocks are impermeable, reservoir compartments are small, pressure rates can be abnormally high or low, predicting natural fractures which might aid flow rates can be difficult, and reservoirs that produce large water volumes must be predicted and avoided, according to DOE.

The agency said UT Austin's project would focus on potential techniques to enhance the fracturing process, while MIT would examine methods to better locate naturally fractured sweet spots in tight gas formations.

The fossil energy office's National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage both projects, DOE said.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

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