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Offshore Technology

O and G iconCurrent DOE offshore research has its roots in the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research (UDW) Program launched in 2007 by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005). The public/private partnership was designed to benefit consumers by developing environmentally-friendly technologies to increase America’s domestic oil and gas production in order to reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign imports. Subsequent to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the UDW Program became focused more on safety and environmental sustainability. This mission and synergistic technology development are in support of the DOE/Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) memorandum of collaboration.

Although the Title IX, Subtitle J, Section 999 of EPAct 2005 (Sec. 999) was rescinded by Congress with the passage of the fiscal year 2014 (FY14) budget, Sec. 999 offshore projects continued through September 2016, grouped under four technology areas:

  • geologic uncertainty
  • drilling and completion systems
  • surface facilities and umbilical
  • subsea systems reliability

Increasingly, offshore domestic oil and natural gas activities are associated with remote and challenging regions, such as the ultra-deepwater (greater than 5,000 feet) Gulf of Mexico and the offshore Arctic. Development in these areas poses unique technical and operational challenges, as well as distinct environmental and societal concerns. Domestic resources of natural gas and oil will continue to play an increasingly critical role in meeting U.S. energy needs, provided they can be produced with the confidence that environmental and economic risk is reduced. The science base necessary to support stakeholder decisions stems from the ability to understand the behavior of engineered-natural systems over a range of often offshore conditions.

Deepwater research
Left: sunsetting shallow water Right: dawning deepwater research focus; each with their own challenges for maximizing resource recovery. Center: map of area being covered, most of which is unexplored.

The current Offshore Research Program balances internal research through NETL’s Offshore Research Portfolio with external projects that bring together industry, academia, and other DOE laboratories. The NETL inhouse Offshore Research Portfolio is a suite of projects that focuses on innovative solutions to solve the challenges associated with geohazard prediction, subsurface uncertainty reduction, and oil and gas infrastructure integrity and optimization for new and existing infrastructure systems.

Research thrusts include:

reservoir model

  • Improving the ability to predict geologic hazards by identifying subsurface issues early, with greater accuracy, and with faster response time using geohazard identification, mapping, and data modeling tools.
  • Preparing for potential offshore incidents by managing and minimizing risks during drilling and production operations from topside to seafloor through a better understanding of the performance of materials, such as metals and cement, under extreme conditions.
  • Minimizing drilling risks to prevent catastrophic offshore incidents and loss of life by developing new models and technologies to increase understanding of the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, and Pacific ultra-deepwater risks.

These technologies and advances reduce the likelihood of, and help prevent impacts from, damaging events associated with offshore oil and gas drilling and production, while improving the economic potential of these domestic resources.

The following efforts are currently underway:

Find a full list of the current active projects in the Offshore Research program here.


NETL implements this effort as part of DOE’s Oil & Gas Program.