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

3.2.5. Subsequent Developments in DOE Research Related to Tight Gas Sands

Although the WGS Program as a stand-alone program disappeared after 1992, several R&D efforts carried forward work that had begun under the WGS project. These were funded by DOE through GRI or as part of a reservoir diagnostics technology development program under the new organization. Descriptions of these efforts are included here for completeness.

Fracture Fluid Characterization Facility

In order to quantify the behavior of fracturing fluids and fluid/proppant slurries in the wellbore and in the fracture, during and after the hydraulic fracturing process, DOE cofunded along with GRI the Fracture Fluid Characterization Facility at the University of Oklahoma from 1992 through 2000. A unique above ground fracture simulator (the “High Pressure Simulator” or HPS) was designed and constructed. The HPS, the most advanced fracture simulator available to industry, is a vertical, variable-width, parallel plate flow apparatus capable of operating at high temperatures (up to 250 °F) and pressures (up to 1,200 psi).

A state-of-the-art fiber optic based “vision system” was developed for the HPS to facilitate the visualization and accurate measurement of flow behavior of fracturing fluids with and without proppant. Some of the key experimental research areas include fracturing fluid characterization, wall slippage phenomena, dynamic fluid loss, perforation pressure loss, proppant convection and encapsulation, and proppant flowback.

In order to duplicate actual field conditions, field methodologies and equipment for mixing, pumping, and fluid preconditioning were developed. A state-ofthe- art laboratory for fracturing fluid characterization was also established at the same time. The HPS is now the anchor of the Well Construction Technology Center located at the University of Oklahoma. This multi-million dollar research facility offers industry a setting for testing hydraulic fracturing fluids has been in operation since 1993.

Detection and Prediction of Natural Fractures in Gas Reservoirs

Because tight gas reservoirs require a sufficient density of open, connected natural fractures to yield economical quantities of gas, new technologies for detecting and predicting the location of naturally fractured areas have consistently ranked among industry’s highest priority R&D goals.

To meet this need, the Department of Energy initiated its Detection and Prediction of Naturally Fractured Gas Reservoirs Project. This research program examined and tested a variety of techniques for natural fracture detection and prediction between 1992 and 1997, focusing on remote imagery for regional reconnaissance and advanced seismic and rock mechanics theory for local mapping and predicting of fracture zones and associated gas.

A key criterion for all of these methods was cost effectiveness. Regional reconnaissance methods were tested to provide low-cost overviews that would guide later, more site specific, costly investigation.

Advanced seismic methods and processing were found essential for establishing the foundation for both fracture prediction and direct fracture detection.

The six field R&D projects carried out under this program included:

  • Anadarko Basin, Conoco Borehole Project -- The objective of this project was to combine geology, geophysics and reservoir engineering to predict fluid migration in fractured rocks. The test facility was the Conoco Newkirk Borehole Test Facility in Oklahoma. A series of cross well seismic surveys were performed in the test wells at the research facility.
  • Powder River Basin, Fort Fetterman Rock Physics Project -- The objective of this project was to refine rock physics tools essential for linking seismic signatures to the characterization of fractured rock The Fort Fetterman project site is in a producing field in the southern Powder River Basin, Wyoming. Four nine-component 2-D survey lines (2D - 9C) were shot to define the dominant fracture trends at the site.
  • Uinta Basin, Bluebell-Altamont Field Multicomponent 2-D Seismic Project -- The objective of this project was to detect and characterize fractures using multicomponent seismic, VSP and other data. The Bluebell-Altamont field project is in a large producing field in the northern part of the Uinta Basin, Utah. Two orthogonal 2-D seismic lines and a vertical seismic profile (VSP) were acquired as part of the research project.
  • Piceance Basin, Rulison Field, Integrated Use of Imagery, 3-D Seismic and Geomechanics -- The objective of the project was to optimize and then demonstrate geophysical techniques for detecting naturally fractured areas in tight gas reservoirs. The project was located in the Rulison Field (Mesaverde tight, lenticular sands) in the south-centered Piceance Basin, Colorado, operated by Barrett Resources. The project used an integrated suite of Landsat--TM imagery, a high-resolution aeromagnetic survey, and 3-D, P-wave (multi-azimuth) seismic data. The initial data were incorporated into a geomechanical model to identify and predict areas underlain by intense, connected sets of natural fractures in two areas of the Rulison field.
  • Wind River Basin, Madden Field 3-D Seismic Anisotropy Project -- The objective of the project was to investigate cost-effective technologies for characterizing the spatial distribution of gas-producing natural fractures. The project site was in an established field in the Wind River Basin, targeting the Lower Fort Union Formation. A 3-D, Pwave survey was shot over a 37 square mile area on the western side of the field, followed by 2 square miles involving a 3-D, 3C seismic survey. The data were processed to establish natural fracture anisotropy and location from the larger P-wave and smaller (coterminous) S-wave survey.
  • Green River Basin, Table Rock Field 3-D Seismic and Geomechanics Project -- The objective of the project was to confirm the well site location (selected by the operator, Union Pacific Resources (UPR)) and help orient the direction of the horizontal well designed to intersect natural fractures. The project was located in the Table Rock Field (targeting the deep Upper Cretaceous Frontier Fm. at 15,000 feet) in the eastern portion of the Greater Green River Basin. An existing 3-D, P-wave seismic survey was depth converted and processed to identify the major and minor fault systems in the area. The data were used as input into Advanced Resources International’s (ARI) geomechanical model to predict the likely locations and boundaries of intense natural fracture clusters.

In addition to these projects, there have been more than a dozen DOE R&D projects carried out during the 1997-2006 time period that have focused on improving ways to locate natural fractured zones within tight gas reservoirs, improve fracture stimulation performance or otherwise enhance industry’s ability to find and produce gas from tight sands. At least four ongoing projects are related to similar topics. All of these are highlighted on the NETL website.

Table 3.2.1: List of Major Research Reports for Western Gas Sands Program (1978-1992).

Also available in ..

Western Gas Sands Project: Northern Great Plains Province Review Newman III, H.E. Bartlesville Energy Technology Center 1979 Aug
Western Gas Sands Project: Stratigraphy of the Piceance Basin Anderson, Stephen Bartlesville Energy Technology Center 1980 Aug
Western Gas Sands Project: Completion and Production Summary Rulison Field, Piceance Basin, Colorado Peterson, R.E. Bartlesville Energy Technology Center 1982 Dec
Western Gas Sands Project: Production Histories of the Piceance and Uinta Basins of Colorado and Utah Anderson, Stephen, Kohout, Julie Bartlesville Energy Technology Center, Las Vegas Field Office 1980 Nov 20
Western Gas Sands Project: Interim Economic Analysis of Natural Gas Production from Tight Formations in Selected Western Basins Bailey, William Bartlesville Energy Technology Center, Las Vegas Field Office 1981 Jul
Western Gas Sands Project: An Approximation of Continuity of Lenticular Mesaverde Sandstone Lenses, Utilizing Close Well Correlations, Piceance Basin, Northwest Colorado CER Corporation 1982 Nov
Geologic and Production Characteristics of the Tight Mesaverde Group: Piceance Basin (Topical Report) Myal, F.R., Price, E.H., Hill, R.E., Kukal, G.C., Abadie, P.A., Riecken, C.C. CER Corp. 1989 Jul
Introduction to the GRI/DOE Field Fracturing Multi-Site Project Peterson, R.E., Middlebrook, M.L., Warpinski, N.R., Cleary, M.P., Branagan, P.T. CER Corp. 1993 Dec
Development of Techniques for Optimizing Selection and Completion of Western Tight Gas Sands - Summary Report and Eight Phase Reports Knutson, C.F., et al CK GeoEnergy Corp. 1978-81
Continuity and Permeability Development in the Tight Gas Sands of the Eastern Uinta Basin, Utah Knutson, C. & C. Boardman CK GeoEnergy Corp./Lawrence Livermore Laboratories 1978 May
A Collection of Technical Data for Tight Gas Sands in Support of the Massive Hydraulic Fracturing System Knutson, C.F. & C.R. Boardman CK GeoEnergy Corp./Lawrence Livermore Laboratories 1978 Sep
Status of models for analysis of Western Gas Sands Horton, A.I. ; Layne, A.W. DOE-METC 1985 Apr
Status of multiwell stimulation modeling analysis and western gas sands hydraulic fracture model development Layne, A. DOE-METC 1985 Aug
Hydraulic Fracture Model Analysis of the MWX Stimulation Treatments in the Paludal Interval Technical Note Layne, A.W. DOE-METC 1985 Aug
Re-analysis of the MWX (Multi-Well Experiment) fracture stimulation data from the Paludal zone of the Mesaverde formation: Annual report, FY 1988 Smith, M.B. ; Miller, W.K. II DOE-METC 1988 Nov
U.S. Geological Survey Publications on Western Tight Gas Reservoirs, Topical Report Krupa, M.P., Spencer, C.W. DOE-METC 1989 Feb
Analysis of Stratigraphic Barriers (Caprock) Between Sands in the Cretaceous Mesa Verde Formation, U.S. DOE Multiwell Experiment, Garfield County, CO Soeder, D.J. Institute of Gas Technology 1984 Jun
Directional Core Analysis of the Mesa Verde Formation U.S. DOE Multiwell Experiment Garfield County, CO Soeder, D.J. Institute of Gas Technology 1984 Jun
Effects of Water and Stress Upon Permeability to Gas of Paludal and Coastal Sands- U.S. DOE Multiwell Experiment Garfield County, CO Randolph, P, J. Soeder, & P. Chowdish Institute of Gas Technology 1985 Apr
A Review of the Mechanics and Occurrence of Natural Fractures in Rock as Applied to the Development of the Tight Western Gas Sands Towse, D. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 1980 May 8
In Situ Dynamic Elastic Moduli of Mesaverde Rocks and a Comparison With Static and Dynamic Laboratory Moduli Lin, W. & F.E. Hueze Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 1986 Jan
The LLNL Sonic Probe for In-situ Stress Measurements-Progress Report on Second Generation tool Mao, Nai-hsien Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 1987 Sep
Physical Models of Hydrofracturing Across Material Interfaces Blair, S.C.,Thorpe, R.K., Heuze, H.K. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 1988 Oct
Discontinuities on Hydrofracture Propagation Blair, S.C., et al. Laboratory 1989 Jan
Propagation of Fluid-Driven Fractures in Jointed Rock Part 1: Development and Validation of Methods of Analysis Heuze, H.E., Shaffer, R.J., Ingraffea, A.R., Nilson, R.H. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 1989 Sep
Propagation of Fluid-Driven Fractures in Jointed Rock Part 2:Pysical Tests on Blocks with Interface or Lens Heuze, H.E., Thorpe, H.K., Blair, S.C., Heuze, H.E. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 1989 Sep
Western Gas Sands Project: Los Alamos NMR Well Logging Tool Development Final Report Brown, Joseph A., Jackson, Jasper A., Koelle, Alfred R. Los Alamos National Laboratory 1985 Mar
Further Development of a Fracture Model for Lenticular Gas Sands Palmer, I.D. & C.T. Luiskutty Oral Roberts University 1985 Apr
The Formation Interface Fracturing Experiment: An In-situ Investigation of Hydraulic Fracture Behavior Near a Material Property Interface Warpinski, N., Northrop, D., Schmidt, R., Vollendorf, W. and Finley, S. Sandia National Laboratories 1981 Jun
Mineback Stimulation Research Program Warpinski, N.R. Sandia National Laboratories 1983 Jan
MWX stimulation experiments Northrop, D.A. Sandia National Laboratories 1983 Jan
Summary of tight-gas-sands sedimentology at the MWX site Lorenz, J.C. Sandia National Laboratories 1983 Jan
Seismic investigation of the Multi-Well Experiment site Searls, C.A. Sandia National Laboratories 1983 Jan
Multi-Well Experiment core program Sattler, A.R. Sandia National Laboratories 1983 Jan
Multiwell Experiment Final Report II. The Paludal Interval of the Mesaverde Formation Sandia National Laboratories 1988 May
Hydraulic and Dynamic Fracturing Warpinski, & R.A. Schmidt Sandia National Laboratories
Sedimentology of the Mesaverde Formation at Rifle Gap, Colorado and implications for gas-bearing intervals in the subsurface Lorenz, J.C. Sandia National Laboratories 1982 Mar
Multi-Well Experiment MWX-3 As Built Report CER Corporation Sandia National Laboratories 1984 Feb
The Multiwell Experiment Geophysics Program Final Report Searls, Craig A. Sandia National Laboratories 1985 Sep
Multiwell Experiment Final Report I. The Marine Interval of the Mesaverde Formation Multiwell Experiment Project Group,CER Corporation Sandia National Laboratories 1987 Apr
Reservoir Sedimentology in the Mesaverde Rocks at the Multi- Well Experiment Site and East Central Site Lorenz, John C. Sandia National Laboratories 1987 Jun
Passive Seismic Monitoring of Hydraulic Fracture Experiments at the Multiwell Experiment Site Thorne, B.J., Morris, H.E., Sandia National Laboratories 1988 Aug
Significance of Drilling-and Coring-Induced Fractures in Mesaverde Core, Northwestern Colorado Lorenz, John C., Finley, S.J. Sandia National Laboratories 1988 Jun
Characterization of Natural Fractures in Mesaverde Core from the Multiwell Experiment Finley & Lorenz Sandia National Laboratories 1988 Sep
Multiwell Experiment Final Report III. The Coastal Interval of the Mesaverde Formation Multiwell Experiment Project Group,CER Corporation Sandia National Laboratories 1989Jan
Multiwell Experiment Final Report IV. The Fluvial Interval of the Mesaverde Formation Multiwell Experiment Project Group,CER Corporation Sandia National Laboratories 1990 Jan
Meas. And Analysis of Fractures in Vertical, Slant and Horizontal Core (Mesaverde examples) Lorenz, J.C., Hill, R.E. Sandia National Labs 1991
Reserves in Western Basins; Part I: Greater Green River The Scotia Group The Scotia Group 1993 Oct
Stimulation model for lenticular sands: Volume 1: Final report C.T.; Sutrick, J.S.; et al. US Department of Energy 1987 Jul
A Slant Hole Drilling Test at the DOE Multiwell Experiment Site in Colorado's Piceance Basin- Well Program Frohne, K.H. US Department of Energy 1987
Geologic Studies in Support of the U.S. Department of Energy Spencer C.W. & C.W. US Geological Survey
Multiwell Experiment, Garfield County, CO Keighin
U.S. Geological Survey Publications on Western Tight Gas Spencer, Charles W., Krupa, M. Patricia US Geological Survey 1985
Geologic History and Hydrocarbon Potential of Late Cretaceous Age, Low Permeability Reservoirs, Piceance Basin, Western CO Johnson, R.C. US Geological Survey 1987 Mar
Estimates of Gas Resources in Overpressured Low Permeability Cretaceous and Tertiary Sandstone Reservoirs, Greater Green River Basin Law, B.E. et al. US Geological Survey

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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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