NETL: News Release - DOE Announces New Research to Advance Safe and Responsible Deepwater Drilling Technologies
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News Release

Release Date: May 21, 2012

DOE Announces New Research to Advance Safe and Responsible Deepwater Drilling Technologies

Thirteen Projects Nationally to Support Safe, Environmentally Sustainable U.S. Offshore Oil and Gas Production

Washington, DC — Thirteen projects aimed at reducing the risks while enhancing the environmental performance of drilling for natural gas and oil in ultra-deepwater settings have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for further development.

Negotiations for the new projects will lead to awards totaling $35.4 million, adding to the research portfolio of the Office of Fossil Energy’s Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Program.

Research needs addressed by the projects include (1) new and better ways to monitor displacement during casing cementing using intelligent casing and smart materials, and (2)assessing corrosion, stress cracking, and scale at extreme temperature and pressure. All of the projects aim to develop and validate new technologies to enhance safety and environmental sustainability.

The total value of the projects is more than $56 million over 4 years with approximately $21.2 million of cost-share provided by the research partners in addition to the $35.4 million in federal funds. The research contracts will be administered by the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America, under the management of the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. Brief descriptions of the selected projects follow: 

  • The Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma (Norman, Oklahoma)Intelligent Casing-Intelligent Formation Telemetry System. Researchers at the University of Oklahoma will identify reliable technologies that may be applied to make production casing - the piping that carries oil and gas - "intelligent," allow safe and effective deployment, and ensure highly reliable and effective data transmission to the surface. Much more data from the reservoir could be transmitted to surface operations as a result of this work. Allowing data related to the cementing of the production-casing in the wellbore to be transmitted to the surface in real time would provide personnel with up-to-the-second information, resulting in early identification of any potential incidents. DOE share: $474,935; Recipient share: $120,000; Duration: 1 year
  • Brine Chemistry Solutions, LLC (Houston, Texas)Corrosion and Scale at Extreme Temperature and Pressure. Researchers on this project will develop the necessary data, models, and experimental tools to more accurately assess corrosion, stress cracking, and chemical deposit buildup, or "scale," formation at extreme temperature and pressure. This information can be used to develop a methodology for the prediction, measurement, and early detection of corrosion under deep subsurface conditions, minimizing risk of component failure. DOE share: $3,174,127; Recipient share: $807,640; Duration: 3 years
  • Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado)Hydrate Modeling & Flow Loop Experiments for Water Continuous & Dispersed Systems. This project will focus on reducing the risk of environmental and operational safety problems associated with hydrate blockagesforming in flexible subsea production tubulars . Specifically, the project aims to modify and update an industry standard viscosity model, perform lab experiments – known as flow loop experiments - investigating the characteristics of fluid dynamics in pipes to optimize the viscosity parameters, incorporate the viscosity model with a Colorado School of Mines’ hydrate growth rate model, predict and validate an improved hydrate kinetic model using flow loop experiments, and model development for water+gas and water+gas+oil systems. The ultimate goal is to develop a model that is completely validated and accepted by industry. DOE share: $701,733; Recipient share: $175,434; Duration: 2 years
  • Deepflex (Houston, Texas)Qualification of Flexible Fiber Reinforced Pipe for 10,000-Foot Water Depths. Deepflex researchers will design concepts for light-weight, flexible risers that allow for safe installation, will be capable of faster and easier repair than conventional risers and provide a stronger product that is less apt to rupture. The project will also include prototype manufacturing and qualification testing. The successful development of durable, lower-weight flexible riser technology with low intervention costs and greater than 3,000-meter water depth capability is a key enabling technology for future ultra-deepwater Gulf of Mexico production. Total Project—DOE share: $10,985,402; Recipient share: $9,410,005; Duration: 3¾ years
  • Det Norske Veritas (Houston, Texas)Ultra-deepwater Dry Tree System for Drilling and Production in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers will select two promising platform designs, with associated riser tensioning systems, to meet design requirements for a new above sea-level, or "dry tree," production system and perform pre-front end engineering design (pre-FEED) equivalent engineering and cost estimates. Key technically challenged areas and the need for new technologies, which require qualification before being field ready, will be addressed, and associated technology qualification plans will be developed. The researchers will also identify deployment opportunities for each solution with respect to field applications and considerations for overall safety, equipment limitations, fabrication, transportation, installation, and geographical locations. DOE share: $2,150,000; Recipient share: $935,000; Duration: 1¼ years
  • Doris, Inc. (Houston, Texas)Low Cost Flexible Production System for Remote Ultra-Deepwater Gulf of Mexico Field Development. Doris researchers will evaluate a circular-shaped floater with storage and a floating production unit with direct production to shuttle tankers as a possible concept for use as a safe, environmentally sound, and economically feasible low-cost remote deepwater production system. The study will include an evaluation of various riser options, dynamically positioned shuttle tanker operations analysis, risk analysis and hazard identification, and analyses of hurricane abandonment acceptability with hydrocarbons in storage and regulatory/compliance requirements. Model testing in a wave tank using simulated hurricane-force conditions will be included in the study. DOE share: $1,197,827; Recipient share: $299,456; Duration: 1⅓ years
  • GE Global Research (Niskayuna, New York)All Electric Subsea Autonomous High Integrity Pressure Protection System (HIPPS) Architecture. The goal of this project is to reduce the risk of environmental impacts resulting from subsea equipment failure through the use of improved failsafe systems and controls. An electric failsafe HIPPS will help ensure the integrity and safety of any subsea equipment not rated for the wellhead shut-in pressure. This research addresses the heart of safety, integrity, and reliability of practical subsea facilities. Successful commercialization and utilization of this type of system will result in an added barrier to avoid environmental problems downstream of the system. DOE share: $600,000; Recipient share: $150,000; Duration: 1¾ years
  • GE Global Research (Niskayuna, New York)Qualification of Flexible Fiber Reinforced Pipe for 10,000-Foot Water Depths. The goal of this project is to design concepts for light-weight, flexible risers that allow for safe installation, will be capable of faster and easier repair than conventional risers, provide a stronger product that is less apt to rupture, and can potentially resolve situations before they develop into environmental problems. The project will also include prototype manufacturing and qualification testing. The successful development of durable, lower-weight flexible riser technology with low intervention costs and greater than 3,000-meter water depth capability is a key enabling technology for future ultra-deepwater Gulf of Mexico production. DOE share: $7,105,948; Recipient share: $6,331,586; Duration: 4 years
  • NanoRidge Materials (Houston, Texas)Ultra-High Conductivity Umbilicals: Polymer Nanotube Umbilicals. The next step in this continuation project is to achieve a conductivity capability for subsea umbilicals that is at least comparable to that of copper, but at a much lower weight. A polymer nanotube-based high conductivity wire for umbilicals, the cables that provide power to satellite wells, will increase the distance that satellite wells can be located away from surface facilities, leading to a reduction in energy requirements and a smaller operations carbon footprint. Ultimately, the reduced size and weight of the umbilicals will result in easier and potentially safer handling of cable during installation. It will also decrease the need to build and use hubs and platforms, since more efficient power transmission will allow for a subsea option as opposed to a platform option in some cases. The successful application of this technology should be able to be extended onshore, resulting in added efficiency and less stress on onshore power grids. DOE share: $2,558,549; Recipient share: $639,639; Duration: 3 years
  • Remora Technology (Houston, Texas)Deepwater Direct Offloading Systems, Phase 1. The goals of this project are to develop a system-level qualitative assessment of a safe, novel offloading system to enable offloading directly to a tanker from a floating production, storage, and offloading unit, to perform a technology readiness level analysis, and to identify opportunities to pilot the technology. This work will result in a near-field-ready ultra-deepwater direct offloading system that minimizes the amount of required equipment and leak paths, resulting in safer and simpler offloading methods. If developed, the system will allow marine hydrocarbon transfer operations at a level of safety equal to or better than existing systems.
    DOE share: $758,255; Recipient share: $400,000; Duration: 1 year
  • Stress Engineering (Houston, Texas)Ultra-Deepwater Riser Concepts for High Motion Vessels. The goal of this project is to evaluate the safety aspects of various high-motion vessel riser concepts and mature at least one of these concepts to a field-ready status of development. The results of this work will lead to additional testing of the most critical aspects of the most promising riser concepts. Ultimately, this will close some of the technical gaps for several promising concepts. DOE share: $1,200,000; Recipient share: $300,000; Duration: 3 years
  • Stress Engineering (Houston, Texas)Effects of Fiber Rope - Seabed Contact on Subsequent Rope Integrity. Researchers at Stress Engineering will develop a risk-averse testing plan and seek agreement between project industry participants and U.S. regulatory agencies to qualify polyester mooring ropes for incidental seabed contact and pre-installation on the seabed. The project will include full-scale lab-strength testing, bench-scale soil ingression, cyclic wear testing, and residual break-strength testing, as well as submerged-rope soil ingression field tests. The researchers will seek to understand all of the potential rope failure modes and their contributing factors to improve the reliability of synthetic mooring systems. The project will reduce the risk of permanent synthetic mooring system failure by determining if seafloor contact impacts the integrity of the ropes. DOE share: $1,902,210; Recipient share: $573,000; Duration: 2 years
  • University of Houston (Houston, Texas)Smart Cementing Materials and Drilling Muds for Real Time Monitoring of Deepwater Wellbore Enhancement. Researchers at the University of Houston will address the issues of unexpected fluid loss, cement location and competence, and real-time identification of cement tops by changing the compositions of, and adding sensing properties to, the drilling mud and/or cement slurry. DOE share: $2,588,900; Recipient share: $1,096,900; Duration: 3 years

 


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