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The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy selected six new natural gas and oil research projects aimed at reducing risks and enhancing the environmental performance of drilling in ultra-deepwater.
The projects have been selected for negotiation leading to awards totaling $9.6 million, and will add to the research portfolio for DOE’s Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Program.
Research needs addressed by the projects include the prevention of uncontrolled oil flow through new and better ways to cement well casing, and using coiled tubing to intervene and control flow if necessary.
Other research includes: the development of 3D laser imaging inspection and monitoring devices deployable via autonomous underwater vehicles; enhanced capability for indirectly measuring multiphase flow rate through a conduit; more effective, all-electric, deepwater safety systems; and improved design for offshore facilities.
Their total value is more than $26.4 million over three years, with approximately $16.8 million of cost-share provided by the research partners in addition to the $9.6 million in federal funds.
The research contracts will be administered by the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), under the management of the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
The projects selected follow.
Letton-Hall Group, Houston, will be measuring multi-phase fluid flow in ultra-deepwater. This two-year project will focus on reducing the risk of uncontrolled fluid emissions from subsea equipment by improving fluid-flow measurement capabilities. The tools will be capable of encircling an open conduit of any size and shape and, through indirect sensor measurements, determining a reasonable estimate of oil, natural gas, and/or saltwater flow rates through the conduit. DOE’s share is $3.25 million while the company’s share is $812,040.
Nautilus International LLC, Houston, will focus on a coiled-tubing drilling and intervention system using a cost-effective vessel. Nautilus’ advanced intervention riser with redundant (dual) blow-out preventers and coiled tubing service is an innovative design concept that could ultimately be used to inspect, repair, and maintain subsea wells. The goal of this three-year project is to demonstrate such a system that employs a combination of existing technologies using readily available vessels of opportunity. DOE will provide $1.25 million and Nautilus another $14.66 million.
The University Corp. for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), Boulder, CO, will study the effect of climate variability and change in hurricane activity in the North Atlantic. The goal of this three-year project is to reduce the risk of additional environmental impacts from hurricanes through an improved understanding of the severity of expected storms and subsequent alterations of the design basis for advanced offshore systems. DOE will provide $1.44 million while UCAR will add $360,000.
Lockheed Martin, Houston, will demonstrate an autonomous underwater vehicle inspection using a 3D laser. Lockheed Martin researchers will demonstrate that an AUV with advanced autonomy and sensors can perform subsea structural inspection tasks up to four times more efficiently than remotely operated vehicles or divers, reduce the surface operational footprint by 75% and eliminate the need for large surface support vessels. DOE’s portion is $1.65 million while Lockheed Martin will add $412,468. This is a two-year project.
Granherne Inc., Houston, will work on an all-electric, subsea, autonomous, high-integrity pressure protection system (HIPPS) architecture. The goal of this project is to enhance subsea tieback system safety by maturing the technology readiness level of a new HIPPS system design to an acceptable level for deployment. Because the new system is all-electric, it can be adjusted instantaneously, as compared to hydraulic systems where the adjustment speed slows with distance. This 2-1/2-year project will result in a qualified all-electric HIPPS design suitable for deployment. DOE will fund $1.2 million and Granherne, $300,000.
CSI Technologies LLC, Houston, will be focused on reverse-circulation, primary cementing (RCPC). The goal of this research is to reduce the risk of lost circulation during cementing operations through the development and demonstration of RCPC, a potential breakthrough technology. The research team will assess the viability of performing RCPC to reduce circulation pressure requirements for deepwater wells, determine the technologies required to apply RCPC for deepwater wells, and present development strategies for the required technologies. This two-year project has the potential to revolutionize cementing and eliminate hazards associated with high equivalent circulating densities, and long, conventional (slow-setting/strengthening) cementing practices, that require complex cement slurries and rely on empirical algorithms for design and implementation. DOE’s share is $881,075 while CSI will fund $268,000.