DOE to fund five gas research projects

With natural gas in short supply in the US and demand expected to continue its rapid growth, the US Department of Energy has agreed to pay $4.7 million to launch five natural gas research projects valued at nearly $7 million. The projects will study, among other things, drill-bit manufacturing, reservoir remediation, gas hydrate sedimentation, slim-hole drilling, and salt-dome storage.


Washington, DC�With natural gas in short supply in the US and demand expected to continue its rapid growth, the US Department of Energy has agreed to pay $4.7 million to launch five natural gas research projects valued at nearly $7 million.

Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., will work with Dennis Tool Co., Houston, to continue development of a microwave sintering process that enhances the durability of "compositional-grade" drill bit materials formed from diamond composites, tungsten carbide, and other metals.

DOE said the process takes one tenth of the time of conventional bonding methods and produces bits that wear longer and perform 20-30% better than conventionally made parts. The bits also resist acidic corrosion better.

DOE will pay half the $646,000 cost of the 2-year project.

Penn State and the University of Tulsa will form an industry-driven stripper gas well consortium to identify and fund research in areas such as reservoir remediation, wellbore cleanup, and surface system upgrades. DOE will provide $3 million and participants $1.3 million for the 3-year project.

The University of Texas' Bureau of Economic Geology, Austin, will use multicomponent, 3D seismic imaging to study hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico. The 2-year study will focus on how hydrates and rock types are distributed through sediments and how sediments are bound together.

DOE said the work could enhance the safety of producing hydrate gas in the deep offshore. It will pay $700,000 of the $880,000 project cost.

NANA Development Corp., Anchorage, Alas., will head a team that will develop tools, techniques, and algorithms for drilling slim-hole wells in arctic conditions. They will develop a conceptual design for a mobile rig that could drill gas wells to fuel remote Alaskan towns.

DOE will pay $440,000 of the $1,065,000 million cost of the 2-year project.

Respec Co., Rapid City, SD, will field-test a technology to improve the volume of gas that can be extracted efficiently and economically from salt cavern storage.

The company has adapted a mathematical model, developed for the disposal of nuclear waste in salt domes, to help determine the minimum pressure for storage caverns. It will test the model at two Bay Gas Storage Co. caverns near Mobile, Ala.

DOE said, "Even modest improvements in storage capacity efficiencies could increase the amount of working gas capacity in existing salt caverns. Respec estimates that its technique could lead to as much as 13 bcf of additional working gas capacity being available to meet peak consumer demands from salt dome sites." It said 29 US salt dome sites have about 125 bcf of capacity.

The 22-month project will cost $374,000, of which DOE will pay $277,000.

More in Exploration & Development