Exploration and Production Technologies
Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas & Other Petroleum Resources Program Consortium Last Reviewed November 2016


The goal is to maximize the value of indigenous U.S. natural gas and other petroleum resources with a focus on near-to-mid-term results. Priority resources to be addressed include ultra-deepwater natural gas and onshore unconventional natural gas (tight gas sands, gas shales, and coalbed methane), which have been identified by the National Petroleum Council (NPC) and others as strategic areas for future natural gas supplies.

Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), Sugar Land, TX 77478

In August 2005, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) (the first national energy plan in more than a decade) into law. EPAct Sections 965, 968, and 999 all support oil and gas research and development (R&D). The first two of these sections relate to programs that the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are already implementing. Section 999, however, adds a new dimension to the overall DOE oil and gas R&D effort that involves enhancing opportunities to demonstrate technologies in the field and accelerating their implementation in the marketplace.

The Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Program launched by Section 999 is a public/private partnership designed to increase America’s domestic oil and gas supply and reduce dependency on imports. A portion of the funding is directed toward cost-shared research partnerships, while another portion will be used by NETL to carry out complementary R&D.

Section 999 sets the funding for this program at a level of $50 million per year over 10 years, provided from federal lease royalties, rents, and bonuses paid by oil and gas companies. The funds are directed specifically towards research targeting four areas: ultra-deepwater resources (35%), unconventional natural gas and other petroleum resources (32.5%), technology challenges of small producers (7.5%), and fundamental research complementary to these areas (25%). The complementary research will be performed by NETL, while all other research will be administered by the consortium overseen by NETL. Each year, RPSEA will develop and submit to DOE a draft Annual Plan, which will be used to develop the DOE Annual Plan for Section 999.

The program will increase the supply of ultra-deepwater oil and natural gas and onshore unconventional natural gas (tight gas sands, gas shales, and coalbed methane) through research to reduce recovery costs and increase the efficiency of E&P while improving safety and minimizing environmental impacts. It will also provide small producers with the tools needed to develop natural gas and other petroleum resources and the knowledge base to effectively increase production and resource recovery.

Each year since 2007, annual plans for the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Program have been submitted for review and comment by two federal advisory committees: the Ultra-Deepwater Advisory Committee and Unconventional Resources Technology Advisory Committee. Once approved, the plans are submitted to Congress and published in the Federal Register. Copies of the annual approved plans can be found on the RPSEA website [external site]. Program funds are granted by Congress and released to DOE. RPSEA releases solicitations and awards projects in these areas based on the annual level of funding. A listing of awarded projects can be found on the RPSEA website. The number of annual awarded projects per research area since 2007 is displayed in the following chart:

Research Area/Plan Year







Small Producers Program







Unconventional Resources Program







Ultra-Deepwater Program














A total of 171 projects were awarded under this program. As of April 30, 2016, 128 projects have been completed. Results for the completed projects can be found in their final reports posted on the RPSEA website at www.rpsea.org.

Current Status (November 2016) 
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which was signed on December 26, 2013, repealed the Section 999 program. DOE and RPSEA developed and implemented a plan that transfers the administrative and project management responsibilities of projects that will be active after December 31, 2014, to DOE/NETL. Sixty-five projects were transferred to DOE. DOE will manage the projects to completion during or before September 2016. RPSEA continues to maintain technical oversight of all projects. NETL has begun the process of closing out subcontracts for completed projects. As of April 30, 2016, 43 projects remain active. A hard deadline of September 30, 2016, has been set for all active projects, and all project work must be completed by that date. RPSEA will hold a "Best of RPSEA" project review meeting on August 30 and 31, 2016, in Galveston, TX. Registration for the meeting is available on the RPSEA website.

Project Start: January 4, 2007
Project End: January 3, 2017

DOE Contribution: $251,267,919
Performer Contribution: $62,816,980 (based on minimum 20% cost share for R&D)

Contact Information
NETL – Gary Covatch (gary.covatch@netl.doe.gov or 304-285-4589)
RPSEA – James Pappas (jpappas@rpsea.org or 281-690-5511)

Additional information:

2012 Annual Plan [PDF]

2011 Annual Plan [PDF]

2010 Annual Plan [PDF]

2009 Annual Plan [PDF]

2008 Annual Plan [PDF]

2007 Annual Plan [PDF]