OTC: DOE continues to address technology and market challenges

By Kurt Abraham, Editor-in-Chief, World Oil on 5/9/2019
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Photo: U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Shawn Bennett.

HOUSTON -- The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) offshore research and technology solutions continue to support President Trump’s goals for energy dominance and the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy. That’s the message brought to attendees at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) by Deputy Assistant Secretary Shawn Bennett at a topical breakfast during Day 2 (Tuesday, May 7).

In running DOE’s Office of Oil and Natural Gas, Secretary Bennett said that “we are in the middle of looking into how we are going to continue with research into the offshore. Our research dollars are limited, so it’s to our advantage to look for projects that will have the most benefit to industry (and the country).”

Within many of its research programs and projects, the Office of Oil and Natural Gas is looking to increase ultimate recovery, explained Bennett. Accordingly, DOE several months back announced the project entitled, "Advanced Subsea Systems Technologies to Improve Efficiency and Capabilities for EOR in Offshore Wells." DOE, said Bennett, will provide up to $15 million for cost-shared R&D projects that will ultimately enhance the potential for deepwater EOR of conventional resources. The project objective is to advance promising low-technology readiness level (TRL) offshore operations and sensing technologies.

The project will be executed in two phases. Phase 1 will entail laboratory validation and prototype development. Phase 2 will consist of field testing of an integrated full-scale prototype. Bennet said that evidence of industry support and/or cost share will be required prior to Phase 2, to ensure the achievement of enhanced commercialization potential.

NPC participation. Meanwhile, Bennett noted that the National Petroleum Council (NPC) is looking at several items on which to advise and update DOE Secretary Rick Perry. Among these items are carbon sequestration, transportation infrastructure for oil and gas, and Arctic potential.

As regards carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), Secretary Perry had asked the NPC back in September 2017 to undertake a study, to identify “potential pathways,” including R&D, regulatory and policy options, to integrate CCUS into petroleum industry operations. Addressing Perry’s request, NPC’s study has been evaluating the CCUS value chain; establishing the business case for CCUS in the U.S.; addressing a broad range of factors associated with the request; focusing primarily on accelerating CCUS deployment within the U.S.; and delivering an “actionable set of recommendations” for short, medium and long-term scale-up of CCUS deployment.

As of a meeting held last December, NPC said that a report outline had been developed, and that writing was underway on several chapters. NPC said that the study was on-track for September 2019 delivery to Secretary Perry.

On transportation infrastructure, Bennett said that NPC’s study group is analyzing the changing dynamics and future needs of oil, gas and NGL transportation infrastructure. The group is looking at existing and future constraints, and technology and policy options to improve siting and permitting, which can improve safety, environmental performance, and resiliency.

Regarding the Arctic, Bennett said that NPC has competed a supplemental assessment to its 2015 report, “Arctic Potential: Realizing the Promise of U.S. Arctic Oil and Gas Resources.” This report was just submitted to Secretary Perry on May 2. In his request, Secretary Perry asked the NPC to consider recent exploration experience and technological advancements in Arctic offshore oil and gas development that could inform governmental decision-making. The NPC also was asked to provide views on whether the nation’s regulatory environment could be enhanced to improve reliability, safety, efficiency, and environmental stewardship.

In the last four years, NPC said that globally, there has been substantial Arctic exploration drilling, with

47 wells drilled, including two in the U.S. Arctic. There also has been substantial progress in demonstrating and advancing technology to prevent and respond to an oil spill in Arctic conditions.

The NPC Arctic supplemental assessment contains recommendations addressing enhanced safety and environmental stewardship, regulatory effectiveness and certainty, drilling season length, lease term competitiveness, and enabling infrastructure. Implementation of the recommendations in this report, according to NPC, will improve safety, environmental stewardship, and the competitiveness of Arctic resources.

Bennett also told the audience that DOE is working on a gas hydrates program, to evaluate the potential of what could be a huge source of natural gas in the future. “This is not going to change the energy outlook in the next several years, but it could be a significant factor in the long term."

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