Washington, DC — New technologies that help small, independent oil and natural gas operators contribute to domestic energy production while improving environmental protection have resulted from U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) support of the Stripper Well Consortium (SWC).
"Stripper wells" are wells that produce less than 10 barrels of oil or 60,000 standard cubic feet of natural gas per day. According to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, more than 375,000 U.S. stripper oil wells account for nearly 720,000 barrels of oil per day, or about 20 percent of the U.S. production. More than 322,000 stripper natural gas wells produce over 2 trillion standard cubic feet of natural gas annually, or 19 percent of the total U.S. natural gas production.
By improving the economics of oil and natural gas production from these marginal wells, the nearly 100 technology-driven projects funded since the SWC was founded in 2000 have helped maximize the recovery of domestic hydrocarbon resources, minimize environmental impacts, and strengthen the nation’s energy security. In addition, every dollar of stripper oil and natural gas production generates roughly one dollar of economic activity, and nearly 10 jobs are dependent upon every one million dollars of stripper well oil and natural gas produced.
The Consortium is mainly composed of small, domestic oil and natural gas producers, as well as service and supply companies, trade associations, industry consultants, technology entrepreneurs, and academia. Its goal is to keep stripper wells productive in an environmentally sustainable way.
Many SWC projects have resulted in commercialized technologies over the years and have been previously highlighted by DOE. Additional technologies, developed over the past couple of years, are now moving toward commercialization and are expected to positively impact the oil and natural gas industry, including:
- Clean Tech Innovations LLC (Bartlesville, Okla.) has developed an environmentally friendly soil amendment to remediate oilfield brine-contaminated soil. This rapid, simple, economic, and dependable remediation technology uses a proprietary component along with a highly soluble calcium source and fertilizer. The process involves tilling the soil; adding the amendment component, calcium source, and fertilizer; re-tilling; and watering. Grass grows in treated soil in 2–6 weeks, instead of years. The product can be applied by the customer, is lower cost than currently available technologies, and has been successfully demonstrated at multiple sites across the United States.
- Systems of Merritt Inc. (Upland, Ind.) has developed an iPhone app called Pumper’s Friend for collecting digital data from oil and natural gas fields. Using a smartphone, the app allows the pumper/well tender to quickly gather and transmit field data more accurately and to review well performance at the well site. This capability leads to more efficient operation of the well and increased production.
- OsComp Systems (Cambridge, Mass.) has developed a prototype positive displacement, near-isotherm rotary compressor to reduce the cost of natural gas compression at stripper wells. The technology lowers capital costs, is capable of a 42:1 compression ratio, has both wet gas and multiphase compression capability, has high energy efficiency (which results in reduced fuel gas use), and dramatically reduces the footprint of compression operations. In addition to its use for stripper wells, the compression technology has applications to small-scale liquid natural gas, enhanced oil recovery, mobile compression, sour aggressive gas, and for the compressed natural gas refueling industry. OsComp Systems will conduct field trials of the compressor in 2012.
The Stripper Well Consortium is managed and administered by The Pennsylvania State University. Base funding and technical guidance to the consortium are provided by DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Read about additional tools developed with DOE/SWC support that are commercially available: