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Projects Selected to Boost Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources

Posted Sep 27 2010 12:26am

Washington, D.C. – Ten projects focused on two technical areas aimed at increasing the nation’s supply of "unconventional" fossil energy, reducing potential environmental impacts, and expanding carbon dioxide (CO2) storage options have been selected for further development by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The projects include four that would develop advanced computer simulation and visualization capabilities to enhance understanding of ways to improve production and minimize environmental impacts associated with unconventional energy development; and six seeking to further next generation CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to the point where it is ready for pilot (small) scale testing.

The total value of the projects is approximately $12.2 million, with $9 million of DOE funding and $3.2 million of non-Federal cost sharing. The research will be managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Unconventional fossil energy resources are those extracted using techniques other than those used for traditional oil or natural gas wells. Production from unconventional resources – which have the potential for increasing domestic oil and natural gas supply – often has more environmental and technology challenges than traditional methods.

Advancements in simulation and visualization technologies can provide improved assessments and understanding of the cumulative environmental impacts as well as model improved processes for advancing unconventional fossil energy recovery.

Easy-to-produce oil recovered from U.S. oil fields has an average recovery factor estimated at 35 percent. EOR – including techniques using advanced CO2 injection – offers prospects for additional recovery and ultimately producing up to 60 percent or more of the reservoir’s original oil in place. Additionally, permanent geologic storage of the injected CO2 has implications for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, viewed by many experts as an important component of a portfolio strategy for reducing human-generated CO2 emissions.

Although one of these techniques, CO2 miscible flooding is the fastest growing EOR process in the United States (currently about 5 percent of total domestic oil output), the CO2-EOR process is limited by technology, cost, and geographic availability of CO2. The selected projects will focus on technology improvements needed to increase the efficiency of the process, including providing advanced tools and methods, as well as valuable laboratory, field, and modeling data analyses.

Details are as follows:

Area 1: Advanced Simulation and Visualization

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