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News Release

Release Date: November 3, 2003

Department of Energy-Funded Research Advances Work on Fossil Fuels Nationwide

WASHINGTON - U.S.Department of Energy-funded research has verified vast available deposits of natural gas, led to the development of environmentally friendly drilling in the sensitive Arctic and the successful testing of flexible pipe that makes Houdini-like bends deep in the Earth to allow for the lateral extraction of gas supplies.

These and other projects funded through the National Energy Technology Laboratory by the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy’s Natural Gas Supply Program significantly advanced efforts in fiscal year 2003 to improve the discovery and recovery of natural gas supplies critical to the future of the United States, its consumers and businesses.

“Technology is the cornerstone of a balanced energy policy that ensures abundant, low-cost natural gas to American consumers while protecting the environment,” said Mike Smith, assistant DOE secretary for fossil energy.

President Bush’s National Energy Policy (NEP) recommends government accelerate development of advanced technologies for natural gas exploration and production.

“New technology allows us to go about our lives and work with less cost, less effort, and less burden on the natural environment. While such advances cannot alone solve America’s energy problems, they can and will continue to play an important role in our energy future,” NEP asserts. “The policy will advance, new, environmentally friendly technologies to increase energy supplies and encourage cleaner, more efficient energy use.” Where this involves technology research and development, Fossil Energy’s Natural Gas Supply Program will lead the way.

“These efforts are yielding substantial benefits to the nation, including improved air and water quality, decreased reliance on foreign and unreliable energy sources, and a growing and more efficient economy,” Smith said.

During a busy year:

  • Reassessment studies by EG&G Technical Services and Advanced Resources International (ARI) showed in the Green River Basin of the Rocky Mountains, the available gas supplies may be 4.5 times greater than reported earlier. A second ARI study estimated as much as 29 trillion cubic feet of the coalbed methane gas could be produced economically from the coal-rich Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming.
  • A study of reserve growth in the northern Gulf of Mexico identified 54 opportunities with a potential of more than 600 billion cubic feet (bcf) of untapped gas. The Bureau of Economic Geology applied advanced technologies incorporating high resolution seismic stratigraphy and stratal slicing to identify the opportunities. Its industry partner has drilled 3 wells and added a staggering 8.5 bcf of reserves.  
  • Drilling at the nation’s first dedicated hydrate well got under way using a new type of onshore drilling platform that dramatically reduces the impact on fragile ecosystems. The innovative Arctic platform, developed by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., was used to bore the well that will help researchers understand how to produce ice that burns (hydrate). The modular, lightweight platform will reduce effects to fragile ecosystems and extend the duration of drilling in the frozen north. 
  • JB Drilling Inc. successfully used the short-radius composite drill pipe developed by Advanced Composite Products and Technology Inc. (ACPT) to complete a 60-foot radius turn for a 1,000-foot lateral section in a new 1,385-foot deep well. After a week of drilling, the pipe showed little to no signs of wear. As a result of the test, ACPT plans to release this version of pipe commercially. Short-radius drilling using the composite pipe could bring new life to thousands of old or idle wells without the environmental disturbance that drilling new wells creates.

Others include:

  • Revolutionary high-speed drill string tested: The IntelliPipe® system developed by NOVATEK Inc. and Grant Prideco Inc. was tested in a 6,000-foot well at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center near Casper, Wyo. The system is capable of communicating technical well information along with information on rock characteristics near the drill bit to the surface at an amazing 200,000 times faster than conventional mud pulse methods.
  • New high-resolution imaging tool pinpoints drilling targets: ChevronTexaco completed a survey at the Hemphill Field in Texas using the 400-level downhole seismic receiver array developed by Paulsson Geophysical. The survey resulted in successful imaging of the Morrow gas sand channel that had been missed by a $2.5 million, 14,000-foot well drilled previously. ChevronTexaco estimates image quality from the new survey will guarantee that the next well will hit the gas-bearing channel.  

New Awards

  • Conversion Gas Imports (CGI) to field test critical components of a novel LNG process: CGI will field test critical elements of the novel liquefied natural gas transfer system called the “Bishop process.” Ten industry participants agree to share the project cost with CGI. If field tests confirm the design and analyses of the feasibility study, completed April 2003, permitting and construction of a facility could begin in the near future. The process has the potential not only to revolutionize the LNG industry but provide the projected LNG imports faster, cheaper, and more securely than conventional LNG facilities.
  • Gas storage technology consortium established: The Pennsylvania State University was selected to establish and operate a consortium to address technical issues related to the nation’s underground gas storage infrastructure. The consortium will be industry-driven, and emphasize the creation of a balanced research portfolio of practical solutions, short-term projects, and basic research to improve the performance of the gas storage infrastructure.
  • New “smart drilling” projects target deep gas: From two separate solicitations, five new projects were awarded targeting advanced smart drilling technologies for hard-to-reach, deep gas supplies. Three of the projects were awarded as part of the second round of the Deep Trek solicitation. The remaining two were selected from the DCS solicitation issued in March 2003. The projects include:
    • Honeywell International will develop a high temperature electronics fabrication process for implementing advanced analog and digital functions.
    • Schlumberger Technology will design and commercialize a retrievable and reseatable high-temperature, high-pressure measurement-while-drilling tool
    • Cementing Solutions will develop a “supercement” capable of sealing drill pipe annuli at depths exceeding 16,000 feet.
  • MASI LLC will conduct a two-phase project to determine how micro-bubbles, called aphrons, help seal permeable and fractures wellbore rock during drilling, minimizing reservoir damage.
  • Terralog Technologies will conduct a research project to advance the basic understanding of the physical mechanisms involved in combined percussion and rotary drilling.


Contact: David Anna, DOE/NETL, 412-386-4646