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Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected six new natural gas and oil research projects aimed at reducing risks and enhancing the environmental performance of drilling in ultra-deepwater settings.

The projects have been selected for negotiation leading to awards totaling $9.6 million, and will add to the research portfolio for FE’s Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Program.

Research needs addressed by the projects include the prevention of uncontrolled oil flow through new and better ways to cement well casing, and using coil tubing to intervene and control flow if necessary. Other research includes the development of 3-D laser imaging inspection and monitoring devices deployable via autonomous underwater vehicles, enhanced capability for indirectly measuring multiphase flow rate through a conduit, more effective, all-electric, deepwater safety systems, and improved design for offshore facilities.

Their total value is more than $26.4 million over 3 years, with approximately $16.8 million of cost-share provided by the research partners in addition to the $9.6 million in federal funds. The research contracts will be administered by the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), under the management of the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. The projects selected under today’s announcement include:

  • Letton-Hall Group LLC (Houston, Texas) -- Measuring Multi-phase Fluid Flow in Ultra-Deepwater. This project will focus on reducing the risk of uncontrolled fluid emissions from subsea equipment by improving fluid flow measurement capabilities. The tools will be capable of encircling an open conduit of any size and shape and, through indirect sensor measurements, determining a reasonable estimate of oil, natural gas, and/or saltwater flow rates through the conduit. Such an estimate would be invaluable in dealing with an uncontrolled flow event in ultra-deepwater. In addition, continuous measurement data collected on individual subsea wells using this technology will allow for a better assessment of well performance and thus can improve recovery from deepwater reservoirs beyond that possible with current capabilities. DOE share: $3,248,156; Recipient share: $812,040; Duration: 2 years
  • Nautilus International LLC (Houston, Texas) -- Coil Tubing Drilling and Intervention System Using Cost Effective Vessel. Nautilus International’s advanced intervention riser with redundant (dual) blow-out preventers and coiled tubing service is an innovative design concept that could ultimately be used to inspect, repair, and maintain subsea wells. The goal of this project is to demonstrate such a system that employs a combination of existing technologies using readily available vessels of opportunity. DOE share: $1,250,000; Recipient share: $14,662,500; Duration: 3 years
  • University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (Boulder, Colo.) -- Effect of Climate Variability and Change in Hurricane Activity in the North Atlantic. The goal of this project is to reduce the risk of additional environmental impacts from hurricanes through an improved understanding of the severity of expected storms and subsequent alterations of the design basis for advanced offshore systems. It has the potential to mitigate environmental impacts and some future costs by providing credible projections of changes in hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico through the coupling of novel methods and advanced modeling capabilities. DOE share: $1,440,000; Recipient share: $360,000; Duration: 3 years
  • Lockheed Martin (Houston, Texas) -- Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Inspection Using a 3D Laser. Lockheed Martin researchers will demonstrate that an AUV with advanced autonomy and sensors can perform subsea structural inspection tasks up to four times more efficiently than remotely operated vehicles or divers, reduce the surface operational footprint by 75 percent, and eliminate the need for large surface support vessels. The proposed AUV-laser detection and ranging system, a marriage of currently existing components, will be taken through an extended offshore test and made ready for commercial use by the end of the project. DOE share: $1,649,868; Recipient share: $412,468; Duration: 2 years
  • Granherne Inc. (Houston, Texas) -- All Electric Subsea Autonomous High Integrity Pressure Protection System (HIPPS) Architecture. The goal of this project is to enhance subsea tieback system safety by maturing the technology readiness level of a new HIPPS system design to an acceptable level for deployment. Because the new system is all-electric, it can be adjusted instantaneously, as compared to hydraulic systems where the adjustment speed slows with distance. The availability of such a system will help improve safety and environmental protection for marginal, highly pressured accumulations of hydrocarbons that must be developed via subsea wells. This project will result in a qualified all-electric HIPPS design suitable for deployment. DOE share: $1,200,000; Recipient share: $300,000; Duration: 2 1/2 years
  • CSI Technologies, LLC (Houston, Texas) -- Reverse-Circulation Primary Cementing (RCPC). The goal of this research is to reduce the risk of lost circulation during cementing operations through the development and demonstration of RCPC, a potential breakthrough technology. The research team will assess the viability of performing RCPC to reduce circulation pressure requirements for deepwater wells, determine the technologies required to apply RCPC for deepwater wells, and present development strategies for the required technologies. This project has the potential to revolutionize cementing and eliminate hazards associated with high equivalent circulating densities (ECDs) and long, conventional (slow-setting/strengthening) cementing practices, that require complex cement slurries and rely on empirical algorithms for design and implementation. DOE share: $881,075; Recipient share: $268,000; Duration: 2 years



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