Oil and Natural Gas
Natural Gas Resources
The United States is endowed with an abundance of natural gas resources. Besides its use for heating, manufacturing, and as a chemical feedstock, the potential for using natural gas to fuel power generation has been recognized as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen domestic energy security. NETL has focused its research efforts on enhancing technologies that reduce the cost, increase the efficiency, and reduce the environmental risk of finding and producing natural gas in domestic “unconventional” reservoirs, most importantly, fractured shale source rocks. A significant part of the effort remains focused on catalyzing the development of technologies needed to treat fracturing flowback water, as well on developing tools for operators and regulators to use in managing environmental risks and mitigating environmental impacts. The three research focus areas of Natural Gas Resources are shale gas, environmental, and other natural gas resources.
The magnitude of the natural gas resource recoverable from domestic fractured shales has only been recognized within the past decade, as a combination of drilling and well completion technology advancements have made it possible to produce gas from shales at economic rates. NETL research efforts are focused on further refining these technologies, on characterizing the geology of emerging shale plays, and on accelerating the development of technologies that can reduce the environmental impacts of shale play development.
It is critical that development of the Nation’s natural gas resources take place in a manner that minimizes environmental impacts. NETL research is focused on quantifying the risk of impacts to water, air, and surface ecosystems, and in developing new technologies for reducing these risks. Particular emphasis is placed on water management during shale gas development, including enhancement of water treatment technologies.
Other Natural Gas Resources
There are also significant volumes of natural gas to be produced from tight (low permeability) sandstone reservoirs and coal seams, two other so-called “unconventional” reservoir rocks. NETL is funding research to better understand the underlying physics of natural gas production from these rocks, and the relationship between well completion practices and productivity. The objective is to find ways to maximize recovery of natural gas from rocks which just a few decades ago were considered unproductive.