The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has announced an award for a project to receive approximately $7 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development in unconventional oil and natural gas (UOG) recovery.

The project, selected under the FE's Advanced Technology Solutions for Unconventional Oil and Gas Development funding opportunity, will address critical gaps in our understanding of reservoir behavior and optimal well-completion strategies, next-generation subsurface diagnostic technologies, and advanced offshore technologies.

As part of the funding opportunity announcement, DOE solicited research field projects in UOG plays in a variety of environments and geological formations to better understand the subsurface and improve oil and gas recovery efficiency. Research focuses on addressing challenges of flow conformance and sweep efficiency, and the geophysical and geochemical mechanisms governing enhanced gas and oil recovery, in a variety of environments. 

The newly selected project will help DOE master oil and gas development in these types of unconventional formations––and more specifically in the Artic region. The project will also bolster DOE’s efforts to strengthen America’s energy dominance; protect air and water quality; position the nation as a global leader in UOG resource development technologies; and ensure the maximum value of the nation’s resource endowment is realized.

The project represents a critical component of DOE’s portfolio to advance the economic viability and environmentally sound development of domestic UOG resources and support ongoing programmatic efforts in both onshore and offshore UOG research. These efforts include (1) improving understanding of the processes involved in resource development; (2) advancing technologies and engineering practices to ensure these resources are developed efficiently with minimal environmental impact and risk; and (3) increasing the supply of U.S. oil and natural gas resources to enhance national energy dominance and security.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the project. A description of the awarded project follows:

Alaska North Slope Field Laboratory – Enhanced Oil RecoveryUniversity of Alaska at Fairbanks will investigate the first-ever polymer flood for heavy oil resources on the Alaska North Slope (ANS) in the Milne Point Field. The estimates of total heavy oil in place within the ANS reservoirs amounts to about 20–25 billion barrels, with around two-thirds of the heavy oil lying under the adjacent Kuparic River Unit. Traditional water floods have yielded low oil recoveries while thermal, miscible fluids and gas injection methods are not applicable to this resource. Laboratory and simulation studies indicate that polymer flooding has great potential to enhance oil recovery from the Schrader Bluff heavy oil reservoirs. This field test will advance knowledge of heavy oil’s production viability using polymer floods at ANS and across the United States. Success at this location will strengthen the viability of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System in the upcoming decade and improve royalty and other fees to the U.S. taxpayer. 

DOE Funding: $6,967,196; Non-DOE Funding: $2,584,285; Total Value: $9,551,481

To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit the Office of Fossil Energy website or sign up for FE news announcements. More information about the National Energy Technology Laboratory is available on the NETL website.