West Virginia University experts have been chosen to participate in investigations leading to more effective and safer ways to recover natural gas as part of America’s drive to secure additional energy sources.

WVU researchers will lead a team investigating ways to predict whether fracturing in horizontal wells in efforts to tap natural gas in shale reservoirs will reactivate fault lines. They will also participate in another team’s research on better ways to harvest gas from the Marcellus Shale reservoir.

Completing horizontal wells for natural gas in shale involves the use of water to break up rock and free gas. The process is known as fracturing. A proposal from WVU to investigate ways to predict whether the process could reactivate existing fault lines underground was one of 11 proposals identified to receive funding by the Research Partnership to secure Energy for America (RPSEA).

WVU will partner with Range Resources Corporation-Appalachian LLC on the project, officially known as “Prediction of Fault Reactivation in Hydraulic Fracturing of Horizontal Wells in Shale Gas Reservoirs.”

Range Resources-Appalachia, LLC, an independent oil and gas company, owns interests in approximately 11,000 oil and natural gas wells and has a leasehold position of approximately 1 million net acres containing approximately 1,700 proved drilling locations. The company was formerly known as Great Lakes Energy Partners, LLC.

WVU’s Yueming Cheng, assistant professor in the department of petroleum engineering, will serve as the principal investigator.

A second proposal, in which WVU will participate as a team member, will investigate ways to more effectively reach gas in the Marcellus Shale. That team will be led by the Gas Technology Institute and also includes Pennsylvania State University, the University of Texas at Austin, Pinnacle Technologies, Inc. and ResTech, Inc.

Shahab Mohaghegh, professor in the department of petroleum engineering, is the primary WVU investigator on the second proposal. With more than 17 years of experience, Mohaghegh has been a pioneer in the application of artificial intelligence and data mining for the petroleum industry.

RPSEA selected both proposals under its Unconventional Resources Program through contract with the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory. The project supports DOE’s Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research and Development Program that was established by DOE pursuant to the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The teams for both selected projects will now negotiate with RPSEA for a grant award for the research.
Awards are negotiated once project selections are made within each RPSEA program. According to RPSEA officials, the projects focus on improving safety, minimizing environmental impacts, increasing efficiencies and reducing costs of domestic hydrocarbon resources, maximizing their value.

“The 2009 Unconventional Resources Program selections add to the current 28 program projects, enabling a more effective development of clean-burning North American natural gas to help meet our nation’s energy needs for many decades to come,” said RPSEA Vice President of Technical Programs James Pappas. “It is becoming increasingly clear that domestic energy needs must be met by natural gas, and the challenge to efficiently extract this abundant resource lies within our grasp. The goal is to unlock the potential for domestic hydrocarbon resources in gas shales, tight gas sands and coalbed methane reservoirs.”

Funding for the projects is provided through the Department of Energy and is funded from lease bonuses and royalties paid by industry to produce oil and gas on federal lands. The funding program was designed to maximize the value of natural gas and other petroleum resources by increasing supply by reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of exploration while improving safety and minimizing environmental impacts.

RPSEA is a nonprofit consortium with more than 160 members, including 25 of the nation’s premier research universities, five national laboratories, other major research institutions, large and small energy producers and energy consumers. RPSEA is headquartered in Sugar Land, TX. Additional information can be found at www.rpsea.org.


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