Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Research on Water and Shale Gas

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement to select and award projects in this fiscal year that focus on "water resources and water management for shale gas development as well as the science to support regulatory streamlining and permitting associated with shale gas development" as well as water issues related to Alaskan oil and gas. Here is a synopsis. There is not a lot of money at stake ($3 million total with individual projects accounting for $500K to $1 million each), but it's good to see the DOE looking at this issue?

This is interesting because water use and water rights are going to be huge issues for this country in the 21st century. Water will be especially important as we 1) continue our westward migration in to more arid lands and 2) global warming looms with the potential for unexpected (and heretofore unknown) weather changes. While the Haynesville Shale doesn't have the same water issues as you might see in Colorado or Wyoming, there will be lots of wells that will require a great deal of water. I think it is wise to get ahead of this issue, especially in consideration of the externalities of drilling. If we are to secure our nation's energy future, we will have to drill in the U.S., and that will lead to unintended surface impacts. Best to be proactive rather than reactive. Did you ever see the Jack Nicholson movie Chinatown?

From the Funding Opportunity Announcement:

"Applications for responsible domestic production of oil and natural gas are sought to:

- Develop and demonstrate long-term cost-effective on-site or central processing facility water treatment operational performance and cost data in emerging shale gas plays such as the Marcellus, Fayetteville, Haynesville, or Woodford. Demonstrations shall be conducted at a size that is easily scalable to field operations. - Develop watershed resource flow modeling to support water supply and disposal issues related to siting and permitting for shale gas development.

- Develop cost-effective pretreatment methods to treat or remove constituents from produced water or hydraulic fracturing flowback water to improve downstream treatment and/or re-use options for shale gas development.

- Develop and demonstrate cost effective produced water management methods that use a systems approach, consider lifecycle analysis, demonstrate extraction of high-value products from produced water and create value or additional benefits on the upstream and/or downstream side of the produced water treatment to improve overall economics."

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