DOE wants to mobilize subsurface engineering R&D efforts

The US Department of Energy wants to mobilize federal government, oil and gas industry, university, and other research to address subsurface engineering challenges, particularly controlling fracture propagation and fluid flow, officials said at the first of several projected discussions.

The industry learned from experience after it starting producing oil and gas from tight shale formations in 1995-96, observed Doug Hollett, director of DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office and a member of the department’s Subsurface Technology and Engineering Crosscut Technical Team.

“There was this wonderful stumbling across information as producers drilled lots of wells and learned from their mistakes,” he said during a July 22 at the US Energy Association’s headquarters. “I wonder if there isn’t a better way.”

Susan Hubbard, a senior scientist and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Earth Sciences Division, said, “Improved subsurface utilization really is a key to our national energy security. There’s been a very nice dialogue across all the national laboratories about adaptive control of the subsurface.”

Hollett noted that nine core areas, including wellbore integrity and new subsurface signals, were identified during a Mar. 14 national labs summit. Common interests, goals, and concerns already have emerged as diverse groups conducted research, he said. At least three more of these discussions where critical questions can be asked will be held, including possibly one during the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting Dec. 15-19 in San Francisco, he said.

Storage management

Subsurface storage is as important as resource production, Hubbard said. “We want to be able to avoid making fractures and heal some we create,” she stated.

Long-term production sustainability also is a challenge since 30-50% of unconventional wells drilled each year have to be replaced, resulting in higher costs and environmental impacts, she said. “We could do a lot better if we could master this subsurface environment,” Hubbard said.

“There are buckets of research needs,” she said. “It’s a continuum that ultimately includes industry, universities, and other stakeholders. We’re looking for advanced partnerships to advance technology in this very important subsurface space.”

Producers would like to find alternatives to the 2-4 million gal of water required for the average frac job, noted another speaker, Srikanta Mishara, a senior research leader specializing in energy and the environment at Battelle Memorial Institute. The slickwater alternative (a combination of nitrogen or carbon dioxide and foam), which is more frequently used in Canada than in the US, reduces water and proppent requirements, produces more uniformly distributed fractures, and alleviates water scarcity concerns, he said.

Many promising technologies look great in the lab but have not been field-tested because it can be expensive, Mishara said. Challenges include cheaper sourcing with good performance, better understanding of nanoparticle transport in a variety of rock types, and fractured media and mechanical models of sweep improved from nanoparticle introduction, he said.

Understand fracing dynamics

Producers agree that fracing technology needs to be improved, according to a fourth speaker, Iraj Salehi, a fellow at the Gas Technology Institute. “Current practices are inefficient in many cases because most production in a horizontal well comes from a few fracture stages,” he said. “We need to understand hydraulic fracturing’s dynamics to use less water to produce more oil and gas.”

Needs include accurate geologic characterization, reliable and affordable measurement tools, better understanding of cause and effect relations between fracing parameters and created fractures, and a dynamic fracture model, Salehi said. “This group feels as if it’s on the right track,” he added. “It’s looking at the right things.”

Hollett said, “A fundamental question involves what’s going on in the surrounding subsurface when proppants are injected to stimulate production. There’s suddenly a different chemical composition nearby deposits. What are its effects? Also, are there ways to make these fractures branch and produce more oil? What are the impacts if we did?”

DOE’s initiative is a potentially exciting development, an American Petroleum Institute official told OGJ following the discussion. “It’s important to get smart facts,” said Richard Ranger, a senior policy advisor in API’s upstream department.

“The federal government did support a lot of the basic research,” Ranger said. “But it was when George P. Mitchell used horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing that it began to work. This does not minimize the importance of understanding subsurface formations. But to use an old oil industry saying, there’s a time to get the scientists out of the room and start drilling. There’s a lot of value in seat-of-the-pants experience.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

Obama’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget recycles oil tax increases

02/02/2015 US President Barack Obama has proposed his federal budget for fiscal 2016 that he said was designed to help a beleaguered middle class take advanta...

MOL absorbs Eni’s Romanian retail assets

02/02/2015

MOL Group, Budapest, has completed the acquisition of Eni Romania, including 42 service stations to be rebranded under the MOL name.

CNOOC subsidiary inks deal for grassroots refinery

02/02/2015 Hebei Zhongjie Petrochemical Group Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), has entered into a $700 million agreement w...

Pessimism mounts over UK offshore industry

02/02/2015

Pessimism about the UK offshore oil and gas industry is gaining momentum.

EnLink agrees to purchase Coronado Midstream for $600 million

02/02/2015 EnLink Midstream has agreed to acquire Coronado Midstream Holdings LLC, which owns natural gas gathering and processing facilities in the Permian b...

Antero trimming, delaying Marcellus drilling

02/02/2015 Antero Resources Corp., Denver, has announced a $1.8 billion budget for 2015, which is down 41% from 2014. The independent said it plans to defer c...

Woodside gets NEB approval for British Columbia LNG exports

02/02/2015 Woodside Energy Holdings Pty. Ltd. has received approval from Canada’s National Energy Board on its application for a 25-year natural gas export li...

Syncrude sees additional $260-400 million in possible budget cuts

02/02/2015 The estimate for capital expenditures has also been reduced to $451 million net to COS, which includes $104 million of remaining expenditures on ma...

Kerry expects to receive other agencies’ Keystone XL reports soon

02/02/2015 US Sec. of State John F. Kerry said he expects to receive other federal agencies and departments’ reports soon on the proposed Keystone XL crude oi...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

When Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST


Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected