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The Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research Program, launched by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), is a public/private partnership valued at $400 million over eight years that is designed to benefit consumers by developing technologies to increase America’s domestic oil and gas production and reduce the Nation’s dependency on foreign imports. Key aspects of the program include utilizing a non-profit consortium to manage the research, establishing two federal advisory committees, and funding of $50 million per year derived from royalties, rents, and bonuses from federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leases. A portion of the funding is directed towards cost-shared research, while another portion is used by National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to carry out complementary R&D.
The program elements and their share of the funding, as prescribed by EPAct are as follows:
- Ultra-deepwater architecture and technology (35% of funds).
- Unconventional natural gas and other petroleum resource exploration and production technology (32.5%).
- The technology challenges of small producers (7.5%).
- Research complementary to the above conducted by NETL (25%).
In November 2005, NETL issued a solicitation for a consortium to manage a portion of this research and development program. The Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) was selected to administer the research. RPSEA was formally awarded the contract in January 2007. Annually, DOE develops and sends to Congress an operating plan describing how new annual funds will be spent. Research priorities are contained in the annual plan. RPSEA issues competitive solicitations for research proposals in the three cost-shared program areas in accordance with the annual plan. NETL oversees the activities of the consortium.
NETL in-house research is complementary to the cost-shared program, administered by the consortium, and is performed by NETL and partnering universities. The NETL Office of Research and Development (ORD) implements this portion of the oil and gas research and development program. Research conducted by ORD is guided by the results of roadmapping exercises and ongoing discussion with industry and university research partners. Complementary research focus areas includes studies related to the environmental impacts of oil and natural gas development, enhanced and unconventional oil recovery, and resource assessment.
Two federal advisory committees, the Ultra-Deepwater Advisory Committee (UDAC) and the Unconventional Resources Technology Advisory Committee (URTAC) advise the Secretary of Energy on the program's development and implementation, and review and comment on the program's annual plan. The advisory committees are managed by the Fossil Energy Office of Oil and Natural Gas.