Research Partnership Notice

U.S. Department of Energy
National Energy Technology Laboratory
Office of Fossil Energy

Research Partnership Notice -- “Seeking Partnerships on Field Research Related to Shale Gas Development”

Issue Date: November 1, 2013     Download PDF

Purpose: The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is a U.S. Department ofEnergy (DOE) national laboratory that produces technological solutions to America’s energy challenges. For more than 100 years, the laboratory has developed tools and processes to provide clean, reliable, and affordable energy to the American people. Developing the science and technology base to enable the efficient and environmentally sustainable production of domestic shale-gas resources is a top priority in NETL’s energy production research. Realizing economical, secure, abundant fuel supplies must balance with protecting air, land, water resources, and human health. New developments in the energy industry, such as horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing used for shale gas and oil production, have raised significant public concern over their potential to impact the environment. NETL is actively seeking partnerships with operators to monitor environmental signals in order to develop: (1) independent datasets documenting environmental conditions from pre-development through production to provide the public with an unbiased perspective on the impacts of shale gas development; and (2) the science and technology base for future strategies to ensure that adverse events can be avoided, or where not avoided, detected and appropriately mitigated.

NETL’s field efforts will be fully funded; there is no cost to operators.

Benefits for Operators:

  1. Unbiased, science-based information to operators, policymakers and the public.
  2. Independent baselines established for shale gas environmental monitoring.
  3. New tools that allow rapid predictions of possible safety and environmental impactsassociated with unexpected events.
  4. Quantitative assessments of geologic systems behavior.
  5. New science and technology to optimize production from tight gas formations and shales.

Areas of Research:

  1. Fugitive Air Emissions and Greenhouse Gases - NETL’s focus is to improve methodsand field datasets that are used in assessments of air emissions for unconventionalresource development. For the past two years, NETL has been actively monitoring shalegas operations through the collection of field measurements to evaluate both ambient airquality (regional effects) and point-source (specific process component) air emissions. Newfield data will reduce uncertainties in emissions inventories and shale gas-greenhouse gaslife-cycle assessments for evaluating air emissions impacts both locally and nationally.
    Our Need: Authorization to deploy air emissions monitoring equipment on active drilling sites to gather high-quality field data sets that include: ambient concentration measurements of methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and other data representative of air quality. Ongoing analysis of the data will yield improved evaluations of air-quality impacts and greenhouse-gas emissions tied to various phases of site operations (well pad development/construction, drilling, hydraulic fracturing, flowback, and production).
    Timing and Duration of Research: NETL’s mobile air monitoring laboratory will be on site prior to any activity taking place, during well drilling and completion activities. Personnel will need to access the mobile laboratory approximately once/week and will be present during high activity periods to capture point-source measurements.
    Equipment: Mobile air monitoring laboratory, FLIR thermal imaging cameras and CH4/acetylene analyzer, and soil gas sampling equipment. All equipment will be provided by NETL.
  2. Produced Water Leak Detection: The objective of this research area is to demonstrate a simple monitoring technique originally developed for use in agricultural applications and apply it towards leak detection for the oil and gas industry. The technology relies on the fact that production fluids are much more conductive than the rain-washed soils that they invade should a leak occur from tanks or water impoundments. NETL’s technique takes advantage of this conductivity contrast to detect and map leaks of production fluids using multifrequency electromagnetic induction (EMI). EMI can be used as routine surveillance and it can also be used to map contaminant plumes should a spill occur.
    Our Need: Authorization to survey active drilling sites to demonstrate the technique to operators.
    Timing and Duration of Research: Variable (up to four times depending on location); approximately four hours for each survey of the site.
    Equipment: GEM II for walking and ATV surveys; Fugro RESOLVE for helicopter surveys; All equipment will be provided by NETL.
  3. Subsurface Migration of Gas and Fluids: NETL efforts focus on (1) developing an independent dataset to document groundwater chemistry and stray-gas from predevelopment through production; and (2) developing novel geochemical tracers that can be used as part of a site-monitoring strategy to verify environmental performance at a site. For the former, NETL is working with other governmental agencies to perform hydrologic monitoring at a shale-gas site. For the latter, NETL is developing rapid sample processing and analytical chemistry tools for natural geochemical tracers that can be used to fingerprint the sources of fluids and gases in complex geologic systems undergoing energy development.
    Our Need: Authorization to access land and drill a series of water wells downgradient of a gas well pad location for groundwater and shallow gas monitoring, plus at least one upgradient monitoring well to serve as a reference. Baseline data would be collected over a one year period to establish any natural seasonal variations in groundwater chemistry. Field parameters such as water levels, pH, conductivity, temperature, etc., will be recorded continuously using downhole instrumentation, and episodic water samples would be collected for geochemical analyses linked to groundwater quality. A headspace gas analyzer will be placed in the upgradient monitoring well. Water and gas samples would be analyzed for a suite of stable isotopes that could serve as natural tracers (e.g., carbon in the gas phase; strontium, iron, and perhaps others in the water phase). Wells will be installed by an experienced environmental drilling contractor following API recommended procedures for avoiding contamination from drilling fluid or cement. The wells would be completed in a manner and in locations determined in consultation with operating partners and local landowners as appropriate. Any surface water bodies in the vicinity, such as streams, springs, or ponds may also be monitored, and domestic wells within one kilometer of the site will be sampled with landowner permission. Multilevel samplers will be deployed prior to sampling episodes to isolate different zones of interest in the aquifers for sample collection. Water samples will be obtained, handled, and analyzed following EPA protocols.
    Timing and Duration of Research: Fluid and gas samples will be collected from operator equipment, such as separator tanks,and from monitoring wells before, during, and after hydraulic fracturing at designated time periods for at least one year.
    Equipment: Downhole continuous recording equipment: In Situ Troll, Solinst Levelogger, or similar; GasClam in upgradient well. Field instrumentation for stream or spring: YSI or similar. Multilevel downhole sampler: Westbay System or Waterloo, depending on aquifer configuration. All equipment will be provided by NETL.
  4. Evaluating Microseismic Activity and Ground Motion: NETL field research efforts focuson evaluating fracture growth and surface ground motion during the completion ofunconventional oil and gas wells. To date, NETL has completed two field studies for eacharea: fracture growth was analyzed using microseismic monitoring with geophone arrays(Greene and Clearfield Counties in Pennsylvania) and ground motion was measured at thesurface prior to, during, and following hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale gas wells(Greene and Butler Counties in Pennsylvania).
    Our Need: NETL is seeking to collect field data related to both fracture propagation andground motion during hydraulic fracturing in order to build confidence in the results to date.Industry observations have documented a limited vertical extent of fracture propagationduring hydraulic fracturing events, documenting that induced fractures do not propagate togroundwater resources. NETL is looking for opportunities to collect additional, independentfield observations to document the extent of fracture propagation during hydraulic fracturing.These new data sets, along with previous results will be used to calibrate and validate newpredictive tools for both ground motion and fracture propagation.
    Timing and Duration of Research: Continuous through well stimulation.
    Equipment: Microseismic monitoring equipment (i.e., geophones, etc.) All equipment willbe provided by NETL.

How to Become Involved:

Parties interested in participating and/or partnering with NETL in one or more of the research areas should submit the following form by 12/31/2013.

NETL is not a regulatory agency and federal regulations provide for trade secret protection for participating companies. Information submitted in response to this notice will be treated as confidential and will not be disseminated to the public. Results of research conducted under this study will be released to the public. NETL will provide operators and landowners a copy of results for review in advance of any public release. Coordination of research with operator and 4 landowners will be required throughout the process and a site specific Quality Assurance plan will be developed prior to the initiation of any work.
Mention of any company or product does not constitute endorsement by NETL. In addition, citations to Web sites external to NETL do not constitute NETL endorsement of the sponsoring organizations or their programs or products. Furthermore, NETL is not responsible for the content of these Web sites.