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Using Natural Gas Liquids to Recover Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources
Project Number
Last Reviewed Dated

The goal of the project research is to improve the ultimate recovery from the oil window of the Utica/Point Pleasant (UPP) shale by using natural gas liquid (NGL) treatments (Y-Grade NGLs, or a similar combination of NGLs), which is to be accomplished through the development of innovative methods designed to improve the effectiveness of well completions and optimize oil and gas recovery over the life of the well.  


Battelle Memorial Institute — Columbus, OH 43201 

Hopco, Ltd. — Columbus, OH 43231 
Linde, LLC — Bridgewater, NJ 08807 
Ohio Geological Survey — Columbus, OH 43229 


Current fracturing, stimulation, and treatment techniques leave behind more than 90% of oil in liquid-rich unconventional oil and gas (UOG) reservoirs. Slick water fracturing has emerged as the preferred technique for fracturing and proppant placement in ultra-low permeability UOG reservoirs. However, a significant number of these completions fail to perform as well as expected. This could be due to poor reservoir quality, inefficient completions, or non-optimal flow back controls. Advances in stimulation or treatment techniques could improve oil recovery significantly. The current common practice in producing shale oil reservoirs is to use horizontal wells with multi-stage transverse hydraulic fractures. Historically, primary production from shale oil reservoirs, even with hydraulic fracturing techniques, has been 5–10% or less original-oil-in-place (OOIP). This project proposes that unrefined Y-Grade NGLs have the potential to be an effective treatment fluid in UOG reservoirs, such as the UPP oil window. 

The use of NGLs as a well treatment fluid is a promising approach that could increase production and efficiency from shale plays. Tests have been conducted with refined NGLs and liquid propane gas, but there are currently no field validation studies looking into the use of Y-Grade NGLs as treatment fluids and methods to enhance their use will not be investigated by industry alone. Despite the perceived benefits of using Y-Grade NGLs (they do not require infrastructure or investment in refining and are already being produced from many UOG reservoirs), significant challenges must be overcome before it can be used in widespread commercial operations. This project seeks to help overcome those challenges and test the potential of Y-grade NGL as a production improvement treatment in the UPP. 

image of wells
Wells drilled in or on the edge of the UPP Oil Window with frac type where applicable.

The fundamental impact of this research is to improve oil and gas production from UOG resources using readily available Y-Grade NGLs as a treatment for low-production unconventional oil plays with specific emphasis on enhancing resource recovery in the UPP oil window. The technology has the potential to unlock several hundred million barrels of oil in the UPP alone. The low surface tension of NGLs will allow for easier migration into the formation to maximize the stimulated reservoir volume. Compatibility of the NGLs with the formation will result in less formation damage and quicker, more efficient post-treatment clean-up. This research technology can potentially be applied to other UOG resources, improving recovery of oil and gas while reducing the impact of the use of fresh water and disposal of wastewater. All these factors have the potential to improve overall U.S. energy production and energy security.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

Phase 2

  • Completed the project’s planned Y-grade NGL treatment test in the UPP formation.
    •  Microseismic monitoring array was installed in the Shoman #1 monitoring well.
    • Nitrogen-gel treatment was applied in the Doughty D-1 NGL treatment well.
    • Doughty #1 well was produced to acquire baseline production data.
    • NGL treatment equipment was mobilized to the Doughty D-1 well and 941 bbl’s of Y-grade was injected into the well on August 24-27, 2021.
    • The well was shut-in for two weeks to allow the NGL to soak into the formation.
    • After the shut-in period, the well was produced for two weeks. Initial production was encouraging and the well had high sustained pressure to suggest additional production potential.

Phase 1

  • Completed a detailed characterization of the geology, stratigraphy, geomechanics, geophysics, mineralogy, and fracture network of the UPP formation.
  • Documented UPP characterization with maps and cross sections to help populate the geologic model and computer simulations for use in test design and economic feasibility studies.
  • Completed a field-testing plan to perform a 941 barrel Y-grade NGL treatment test in two existing oil wells located in Coshocton County, Ohio.
Current Status
Field site

Initial activity under the project has focused on geotechnical characterization of Upper Point Pleasant at the targeted field site and the initiation of field test design. Moving forward, research will continue to process core and frac data from existing wells near the field site, as well as conducting analysis of well logs collected from the field site area through Geographix, which will enable petrophysical analysis and development of geological cross sections and maps of the UPP for the test area.

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Richard C. Baker ( )
Battelle – Mark Moody (