Ou Conducts Natural Gas Research Worth $3.5 Million

Article excerpt

Some $3.5 million in active natural gas research programs are under way at the University of Oklahoma.

The Center for Natural Gas Research is the first of a number of joint research and development ventures at the OU Energy Center collaborating with the private sector and governmental agencies.

Though no great revelation, a status report given to the Oklahoma Board of Regents at its March meeting noted:

- Future natural gas supplies will come from deep reservoirs, stratigraphic traps and unconventional resources.

- At currently forecast natural gas prices, conventional drilling in deep and hostile environments must be made more cost effective.

The scope of the center includes all the interacting elements that affect natural gas today - exploration, production, transportation and end-use, as well as environmental, economic and policy issues.

The center will address such national issues and concerns as the United States' need for such cleaner transportation fuels as methane and methanol and the need to decrease reliance on imported petroleum and petroleum products.

C.M. Sliepcevich, a research professor of chemical engineering at OU and one of the nation's leading authorities in natural gas, is directing the research.

Proposed areas of research in natural gas exploration and production include:

- Finding more cost-effective methods for conventional drilling in deep and hostile environments through more positive identification of hydrocarbon-bearing zones to reduce the costs of dry holes, faster drilling to target, and better drainage of the reservoir. Research would encompass the coupled use of seismic and non-seismic tools to identify more positively gas-bearing rock and to delineate its borders in three dimensions more accurately.

- Performing theoretical analysis of new concepts and initial testing of new motors, instruments and procedures for drilling and draining the reservoir.

- Improving methods for identifying and producing stratigraphic traps.

- Developing a better understanding of the so-called "unconventional" natural gas resources, such as coal seams, shales, tight sands, geopressured reservoirs and gas hydrates that could lead to novel, cost-effective approaches to producing these large reserves.

- Developing cost-effective methods to improve the environmental impact of drilling to help restore drill sites to safe and stable conditions after the drilling is completed.

Research in the areas of natural gas processing, transport, storage and end-use may include:

- Developing the technology for natural gas separations that do not involve large-scale processing plants.

- Developing a low-capital cost process to convert gas into a transportable liquid.

- Finding novel methods for efficiently storing natural gas at higher temperatures and lower pressures.

- Conducting more research on natural gas combustion.

- Developing techniques for methane activation that are more thermodynamically and economically favorable.

The center also plans to conduct natural gas economics, policy and regulatory research that may deal with such questions as:

- Should a fresh look be taken at regulatory or institutional barriers to optimizing reservoir productivity? …