WASHINGTON, DC - A CD archive of nearly two decades of research from the Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is now available. The compiled research and development (R&D) reports chronicle work carried out during the 1980s and 1990s that played a vital role in helping to meet the nation's growing demand for natural gas.
Although a relatively small fraction of DOE's budget was invested in unconventional natural gas research - about $15 million per year for 15 years - these investments provided a foundation for technology development that led to a wealth of important products and industry firsts.
Beginning in 1977 and lasting into the 1990s, groundbreaking research conceived and directed by DOE resulted in an enormous quantity of "ground truth" data on a topic that, at the time, generated little interest from the oil and gas industry: unconventional sources of natural gas. This research, largely managed by NETL, helped advance technologies that have greatly enhanced industry's ability to find and produce natural gas in the United States.
The impact has been enormous. Thirty years ago unconventional sources accounted for less than seven percent of the natural gas from U.S. gas wells. Today, that number exceeds 40 percent. Without the contribution from these reservoirs, the nation would have to import a much higher volume of natural gas than our current import level, which has reached about 15 percent of our total consumption. Additionally, advances initiated by DOE-funded research - such as the discovery of how natural gas is stored in coal seams and fractured shales, the creation of advanced tools and methods for measuring the properties of unconventional reservoir rocks, and the first use of directional drilling in shale reservoirs to improve productivity - are now commercial technologies that are expanding unconventional gas production.
The archive, prepared in response to increased requests from industry for reports stored at NETL, includes nearly 1,400 documents on twelve CDs: four related to eastern gas shales, three related to western gas sands, and one each related to methane from coal seams, methane hydrates, deep source gas, and secondary gas recovery. Reports and proceedings covering the unconventional gas R&D program in general are included on a final CD.
This substantial DOE-developed knowledge base, and the technologies resulting from this early research, helped make possible today's Energy Information Administration predictions for a strong future for unconventional gas production. By 2030, production from unconventional natural gas is expected to reach nearly nine times the volume being produced when DOE's research program began.
The National Research Council appraised DOE's efforts in their 2001 report titled Energy Research at DOE: Was It Worth It? Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy Research 1978 to 2000. The Council reported benefits of several billions of dollars in incremental state and federal tax revenues, trillions of cubic feet of incremental gas supply, and billions in consumer savings due to lower natural gas prices accompanying the supply increase.
To order the 12-CD set, please visit the NETL CD-DVD ordering system and request the Archive of Unconventional Gas Research Data.