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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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? …