New computational tools help companies develop unconventional petroleum reserves

New analytical tools being developed by engineering researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas should allow petroleum exploration and production companies to develop unconventional natural gas resources in North America and around the world faster and more efficiently than using current techniques.The new tools combine detailed computer simulations of potential new gas fields with powerful decision analysis tools that assess the probability of successful development.The package is being developed by Duane McVay, associate professor and Michael and Heidi Gatens Development Professor in Unconventional Resources in Texas A&M's Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering, and J. Eric Bickel, an assistant professor in UT's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering.McVay is an authority on the characterization and management of oil and gas reservoirs. Bickel has worked extensively with the assessment of uncertainty and decision analysis in many petroleum applications.Unconventional gas resources are reservoirs of natural gas that are hard to develop because of the characteristics of the rock or sand in which they are located. Gas reservoir experts estimate that at least 5,200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are available in unconventional reservoirs in North America."Unconventional resources promise the availability of huge reserves of natural gas if they can be developed efficiently and economically," said McVay.The federal Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America is providing $314,606 toward the cost of the three-year project. Two gas production companies, Unconventional Gas Resources (UGR) (Calgary, Alberta, and College Station, Texas) and Pioneer Natural Resources Co. (Irving, Texas) are contributing $40,000 each to the project.UGR and Pioneer will field test the new technology in two unconventional gas fields, Deep Basin Gething sands in central Alberta with UGR and the Barnett Shale in north Texas with Pioneer."Testing in two different kinds of unconventional resources is important in verifying the effectiveness of the package in different environments," Bickel said.