DOE's Unconventional Gas Research Programs 1976-1995
SOURCE: U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region

3.3.2. MRCP Program Design and Overview

The MRCP, as it was initially envisioned, was designed around four primary activities:

  • Evaluation -- To reduce uncertainty regarding the potential of the coalbed methane resource and direct project priorities toward realizing that potential.
  • Resource and Site Characterization -- To acquire sufficiently accurate geologic understanding of reservoir areas and specific local sites to guide the design of effective recovery technologies.
  • Research, Instrumentation, and Modeling -- To develop the tools, procedures, measurements, concepts, and models required to produce methane from coalbeds
  • Production Technology Development -- To design, develop, and field test cost effective equipment and methods to produce gas from coalbeds.
The objectives of the Evaluation activity were to:
  • Assess the results of the other activities,
  • Continue the development of the coalbed methane data base begun pre-MRCP,
  • Assess recent technological developments and related industry activities,
  • Update estimates of the potential of the resource, and
  • Develop and monitor project plans that reflected the integration of the technical, geologic, economic, and other types of data that resulted from the project.
Meeting these objectives was to be accomplished by:
  • Analysis and Assessment of the Resource -- Evaluating resource properties, developing exploration methods, selecting target areas and drilling sites, updating estimates of the resource/reserves, and providing characterization test planning and analysis.
  • Providing Project Information Management and Technology Transfer -- Providing for management of information resulting from the project and making pertinent portions of this information available to all potential users.
  • Providing Project Direction, Integration, and Support -- Identifying and initiating project support activities, identifying and analyzing constraints to exploitation of the resource, and determining the economics of methane extraction/preparation and upgrading systems.
The objectives of the Resource and Site Characterization activity were to:
  • Characterize the methane content of the Nationís coalbeds, which up until then had been done on a very limited basis,
  • Provide the knowledge needed to locate recovery and utilization projects in coalbeds with the greatest potential for methane production.
Meeting these objectives was to be accomplished by:
  • Acquisition and Analysis of Existing Resource Characterization Data.
  • Identification of Potential Sites for Recovery Systems.
  • Acquiring Reservoir Geologic Data -- For the target reservoir areas, obtaining the geologic data necessary to support evaluation and assessment of the coalbed methane resource.
  • Core, Log, and Test Wells of Opportunity -- Performing core tests, logging, sample analysis, and flow tests (where possible) to obtain and correlate coal and methane data.
  • Compilation of a Database.
The objectives of the Research, Instrumentation, and Model Development activity were to:
  • Improve or develop new diagnostic techniques,
  • Improve or develop new stimulation approaches, and
  • Improve the ability to accurately predict and measure reservoir response to stimulation techniques.
Fulfilling these objectives required basic and applied R&D in the laboratory and the field and the development of models. Models and instrumentation were to be evaluated and refined based upon the performance of tests conducted in the field. Specific tasks included:
  • Conducting Extraction Technology R&D -- This task was to continue throughout most of the life of the project.
  • Developing/Modifying Drilling Techniques and Equipment -- Drilling techniques included horizontal drilling and directional drilling, while equipment included downhole motors and waterjet drilling.
  • Performing Stimulation Experiments -- Performing multi-seam stimulations and completions from single vertical boreholes. Designing stimulations to maximize production but to minimize roof damage, especially in minable coal seams. Testing hydraulic, foam, gas, and dendritic stimulation designs.
  • Developing LNG Conversion Capacity -- Developing equipment sized for cost effective liquification near the recovery site of gas from coalbeds.
  • Developing Membrane Separation Capability -- Developing equipment and techniques to upgrade low-quality gas from coalbeds so that it would be suitable for pipeline injection.
  • Developing Mixed-Gas Upgrading Capability -- Developing equipment and techniques to remove contaminants from gas recovered from coalbeds to the extent that its use would be feasible and cost effective.
Finally, the objectives of the Production Technology Development activity were to:
  • Design, operate, and field test coalbed methane integrated systems,
  • Investigate and resolve variables that would be encountered under field (operational) conditions, and
  • Evaluate the systems/subsystems and operating methods tested, for technical and economic feasibility and readiness for commercial ventures.
Meeting these objectives was to be accomplished through tasks under two major categories:
  • Technology Test Projects Associated with Active Mine Coalbeds -- Conducting a series of individual field test projects; each usually involving an integrated system.
      Multiple Well Projects -- New and improved methods would be investigated for draining methane in advance of mining operations.
      Horizontal Borehole Drainage Projects -- New and improved equipment and methods will be investigated for horizontal borehole drainage prior to or during mining operations.
      Advanced Systems Test Projects, (Minable Coalbeds) -- New equipment and methods would be field tested.

  • Technology Test Projects Associated with Presently Unmined Coalbeds -- Conducting a series of individual field test projects; each usually involving an integrated system.
      Deep Coalbed Drainage Projects -- Methane would be extracted from deep coal horizons, many of which would not be mined in the future.
      Drainage Projects in Coalbeds Under Developed Areas -- Methane would be extracted from coal seams that could not be mined because of their location under developed areas such as an urban community having multiple improvements on the surface.
      Directional Drilling Coalbed Drainage Projects -- Methane drainage would be accomplished using directional drilling techniques.
      Advanced Systems Test Projects (Unmined Coalbeds) -- New equipment and methods would be field tested.
The comprehensive R&D plan set forward at the start of the MRCP in 1978 was terminated in 1982, well before its scheduled completion, with further technology development to be the responsibility of the private sector. DOE/Resource Applications (later part of DOE-Fossil Energy) funded 29 small-scale coalbed methane projects to evaluate the unminable coalbed resource as a commercial source of methane for local use.

Twenty-one of these projects were designated as supplemental gas projects to political subdivisions (schools, towns, etc.) and the others were located on Indian reservations in the western U.S. These projects funded the drilling of wells and the gathering of coal desorption data.

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Cover Page

Executive Summary

1. Background

2. GRI Research into Unconventional Gas Resources

3. Structure of the Enhanced Gas Recovery Program (EGR)

  • 3.1. Eastern Gas Shales Program (1976-1992)

  • 3.1.1. Key Questions and Related R&D Goals
  • 3.1.2. Program Design and Overview of Major Projects
  • 3.1.3. Key Eastern Gas Shales Projects
  • 3.1.4. Highlights of Important Results
  • 3.1.5. Subsequent Developments in DOE and Other Research Related to Eastern Gas Shales

  • 3.2. Western Gas Sands Program (1978-1992)

  • 3.2.1. Key Questions and Related R&D Goals
  • 3.2.2. Program Design and Overview of Major Projects
  • 3.2.3. Key Western Gas Sands Projects
  • 3.2.4. Highlights of Important Results
  • 3.2.5. Subsequent Developments in DOE Research Related to Tight Gas Sands

  • 3.3. Methane Recovery from Coalbeds Program (1978-1982)

  • 3.3.1. Key Questions Related to Coal Seam Methane
  • 3.3.2. MRCP Program Design and Overview
  • 3.3.3. Key Methane Recovery from Coalbeds Projects
  • 3.3.4. Highlights of Important Results
  • 3.3.5. Subsequent Research Related to Methane Recovery from Coalbeds

  • 3.4. Deep Source Gas Project (1982-1992)

  • 3.4.1. Key Deep Source Gas Projects
  • 3.4.2. Highlights of Important Results

  • 3.5. Methane Hydrates Program (1982-1992)

  • 3.5.1. Methane Hydrates Workshop (March 1982)
  • 3.5.2. Key Questions and Related R&D Goals
  • 3.5.3. Program Design
  • 3.5.4. Major Contracted Gas Hydrates Projects
  • 3.5.5. Methane Hydrate Research Efforts of METC's In-House Organization
  • 3.5.6. Highlights of Important Results
  • 3.5.7. Subsequent Developments in Methane Hydrate Research

  • 3.6. Secondary Gas Recovery (1987-1995)

  • 3.6.1. Key Objectives and Program Design
  • 3.6.2. Major Projects
  • 3.6.3. Major Results

    4. Elements of Spreadsheet Bibliographies (by Program)

    Appendix A: Details of Major 1970-1980 Unconventional Gas Resource Assessments

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