DOE awards two RPSEA projects to Texas A&M

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded two Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) projects to Texas A&M University.

A total of 11 research projects totaling $12.4 million to help find ways to extract more energy from unconventional oil and gas resources while reducing environmental risks have been selected by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy (FE).

The selections include $10.3 million for eight projects that will reduce the environmental risks of shale gas development while accelerating the application of new exploration and production technologies; and $2.1 million for three projects investigating innovative processes for extracting additional oil from mature domestic oil fields including Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). All of the research contracts will be administered by RPSEA, under the management of FE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Shale gas – natural gas trapped inside formations of shale – is contributing to a rejuvenation of domestic natural gas supply in the United States, with production having increased fourteen-fold over the past decade with a tripling of reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. FE research has greatly impacted this increase by helping refine cost-effective horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies as well as protective environmental practices and data development.

EOR, which involves using carbon dioxide (CO2), other gas, steam or chemical injection to release "stranded" or hard-to-recover oil, is currently providing about 13 percent of total U.S. production. EIA projects its wider use could result in EOR providing 33 percent of total domestic onshore production by 2035, while helping store millions of tons of CO2 emissions from power plants and industrial sources.

The total value of the shale-related projects is more than $17.0 million over 3 years with approximately $6.7 million of cost-share provided by the recipients in addition to the $10.3 million in federal funds. The projects awarded to Texas A&M are:

  • A Geomechanical Analysis of Gas Shale Fracturing and Its Containment. This project will improve current geomechanical models based on detailed studies of cores and hydraulic fracturing data from the Eagle Ford, Haynesville, and Marcellus gas shale plays. The research will include laboratory measurements, numerical simulations, and engineering analyses to rigorously evaluate the rock mechanics controls on fracturing and fracture containment. Findings from these studies will be implemented in 3D numerical fracture simulation models that will allow operators and service companies to design fractures that are better contained within the desired zone while maximizing productivity. DOE share: $651,000; Recipient share: $217,000; Duration: 2 yearsPrincipal Investigator: Dr. Ahmad Ghassemi.
  • Diagnosis of Multiple Fracture Stimulation in Horizontal Wells by Downhole Temperature Measurement for Unconventional Oil and Gas Wells. A key element in optimizing fracture treatments with respect to both effectiveness and containment is the ability to accurately characterize the results of frac jobs after they are completed. Current methods such as microseismic monitoring are valuable, but they can be expensive and are not applicable in some environments. This research project will develop a new methodology for hydraulic fracture characterization using downhole temperature and pressure data. The ultimate goal is to develop a user-friendly interpretation tool that can be used in the field for real-time fracture stimulation diagnostics in horizontal wells. DOE share: $763,000; Recipient share: $254,000; Duration: 3 years; Principal Investigator: Dr. Ding Zhu; Co-principal investigators: Dr. Dan Hill and Dr. Eduardo Gildin.