WASHINGTON, DC - The Department of Energy has selected
three research projects designed to demonstrate a new operating paradigm
for America 's oil and natural gas producers: finding and producing oil and
gas with ultra-low environmental impact.
The funding will be awarded under a DOE funding opportunity dubbed "Low-Impact
Natural Gas and Oil." The LINGO initiative integrates current technologies
and practices in ways that minimize adverse environmental impacts from recovery
of oil and gas over the life of the projects. At the same time, the initiative
seeks to boost the economic recovery of oil and gas by addressing the environmental
concerns that block such recovery.
The projects will be managed by DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory as
cooperative agreements in which project performers share at least 20 percent
of the cost for research and development projects, and at least 50 percent of
the cost for demonstration and commercialization projects. DOE funds available
under the LINGO initiative total $1.3 million.
The United States is the world's most mature hydrocarbon-producing region. Finding
and producing oil is increasingly difficult and costly. As the existing U.S.
reserve base dwindles in a climate of ever-rising energy prices, the Nation's
oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) companies are moving into more
environmentally-sensitive areas. The resulting conflict between Americans' energy
security needs and their environmental concerns has led to standoffs over public
lands rich in both resources. For example, the National Petroleum Council estimates
that 125 trillion cubic feet of potential natural gas resources is either off-limits
or constrained from development due to added costs and delays because of environmental
concerns in the Rocky Mountain region.
What DOE seeks to achieve with LINGO is to demonstrate that ultra-low impact
technologies and practices can be deployed in these onshore sensitive areas without
environmental harm. In time, this can bolster the public's confidence that oil
and gas development can proceed in these areas without adverse effects to ecosystems.
The three selected LINGO projects follow:
- University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark. - One of
the hottest natural gas exploration and production plays is low-permeability,
or "tight," gas shales. Such unconventional gas resources are providing
an ever-growing share of the Nation's gas supply. With thousands of wells
drilled in recent years, the Barnett Shale play in central Texas has
shown such potential that some experts feel it may become America 's
biggest natural gas field. Now the Fayetteville Shale play in central
Arkansas is getting similar scrutiny for its huge potential, with more
than 2 million acres under lease and thousands of wells expected to be
drilled in the next several years. The University of Arkansas , assisted
by Argonne National Laboratory, will develop a web-based software application
that enables small, independent E&P companies to
generate development plans for recovering resources in sensitive ecosystems
located within the bounds of the Fayetteville Shale play. The goal is
to help E&P companies meet their regulatory requirements while anticipating
and minimizing environmental risks. The project will develop a geographic
information system-based, risk-management tool that enables an operator
to evaluate alternative lease layouts and thus manage site-specific environmental
concerns in advance.
- Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Mich. -
Michigan Tech will develop and test a new strategy to satisfy a state environmental
regulation that currently places large tracts of prospective Antrim Shale
natural gas resource in the Michigan Basin off-limits to exploration and
production. Adverse environmental impacts to both air and water are of
primary concern. The possible impacts to the subsurface are aquifer
contamination by drilling muds and fluids, while the impact to the atmosphere
stems from CO2 that is co-produced with the gas. The project will
apply a novel
drilling and completion approach to this prolific gas shale play by utilizing
horizontal drilling and open-hole completions. The project will also investigate
economic alternatives to the current practice of venting the produced CO2
to the atmosphere. In addition, the proposed horizontal drilling
effort will be much more efficient in producing the natural gas from the
shale, thus reducing surface disturbance by requiring far fewer wells than
would be needed to drain an equivalent amount of acreage using conventionally
drilled vertical wells. Michigan Tech is leading a project consortium that
includes Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich., and Jordan Development
Company LLC, Traverse City, Mich.
- Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), Oklahoma
City, Okla. - IOGCC will develop an Adverse-Impact Reduction
Handbook that helps E&P companies identify onshore natural gas
and oil E&P
barriers, provides viable approaches to minimizing impacts, and includes
a benefit analysis of each option. In a unique approach, the project
will gather input from a broad-based stakeholder group that includes
landowners, ranchers, farmers, and other concerned citizens, as well
as Federal and State agencies and industry representatives. The handbook
will serve as a "best practices" guide driven by case studies, field
research, and broad stakeholder input with the goal of overcoming opposition
or delays for E&P activity. It also would be supported by a website.
IOGCC is partnering in the project with ALL Consulting, Tulsa, Okla.,
Devon Energy Corp., Oklahoma City, Okla., and the State oil and gas
agencies of California, Nebraska, Montana, and North Dakota.