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Unconventional Resources

The increasing demand for reliable, affordable, and secure domestic supplies of energy amplify the need for continued research into ways to economically access our Nation’s vast unconventional natural gas and oil resources. While significant advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology were made during the “shale revolution,” they are unable to recover more than a quarter of the natural gas and oil in place.

As a result, three drivers provide a clear focus for the role of technology in enhancing the Nation’s ability to benefit from its vast natural gas and oil resources:

  • Improving understanding of unconventional resources by reducing costs associated with reservoir characterization, stimulation, and production
  • Increasing recovery and mitigating the impacts associated with production
  • Catalyzing the development of innovative technologies to improve our understanding of exploration and production in unconventional reservoirs using field laboratories as platforms for advances supported by partnerships with industrial, academic, and international stakeholders

While the definition of the term “unconventional” has evolved over time, this research program is focused on the production of hydrocarbons from shale and other tight formations. The current portfolio of active projects is balanced among research thrusts including:

  • Advancing fracture diagnostic technologies to more accurately characterize the dimensions of hydraulic fractures
  • Improving well design to more effectively produce hydrocarbons from the reservoir and recover more natural gas or oil from each fractured interval
  • Investigating ways to reduce the volumes for fresh water required for hydraulic fracturing
  • Supporting modeling studies to improve industry’s basic understanding of fluid-water-rock behavior in tight rocks

Find a full list of the current active projects in the Unconventional Resource program here.

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