Researchers Receive $8 Million DOE Grant to Field Test Foam-Assisted Hydrocarbon Gas Injection in Bakken Formation

man working in a lab

UW’s Mohammad Piri, a Wyoming Excellence Chair in Petroleum Engineering, and colleagues have received an $8 million federal grant to pilot the use of a hydrocarbon gas mixture to create foam for injection into hydraulically fractured reservoir rock. (UW Photo)

The University of Wyoming received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to field test a foam-assisted hydrocarbon gas injection technology that could ultimately recover a higher percentage of stranded oil from unconventional reservoirs in North Dakota’s Bakken Formation.

In a collaborative effort with Hess Corporation and Dow, Mohammad Piri, a Wyoming Excellence Chair in Petroleum Engineering, and three other faculty members in UW’s Department of Petroleum Engineering plan to pilot the use of a hydrocarbon gas mixture to create foam for injection into hydraulically fractured reservoir rock. This foam will slow the flow of gas, allowing more oil to be extracted from the rock.

“Most of crude oil is left behind after hydraulic fracturing,” Piri says. “If this pilot is successful, it’s a game-changing technology that can be used widely across unconventional plays.”

The DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy recently announced that five projects, including UW’s, had been selected to receive approximately $39.9 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects. The DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage all of the selected projects.

Of the five projects selected, only UW’s falls under the category of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) Technologies for Unconventional Resources. The UW research project will receive $8 million of DOE funding in addition to approximately $2 million of funding from UW, Hess Corporation and Dow.

“Our continued investment in UW’s groundbreaking research is truly a win-win, benefiting Hess and the energy industry while also ensuring that the U.S. is well positioned as a leader in meeting the world’s growing energy needs,” says Greg Hill, Hess Corporation president and chief operating officer. “Understanding the fundamental chemical and physical processes at work in unconventional reservoirs will be key to unlocking billions of barrels of potential resource.”

“The DOE is investing in the combined strengths of three renowned organizations,” says Ester Baiget, business president, Dow Industrial Solutions. “With Dow’s vast materials science expertise and EOR implementation knowledge, UW’s fundamental research capabilities and Hess’ world-class operational expertise, we have the best opportunity to solve this difficult problem — extracting more with less — less water, less environmental impact, less cost. It is exciting to extend Dow’s field-proven conventional EOR technologies in the rapidly growing unconventional oil production market.”

“The University of Wyoming continues our strong commitment to the development of new technologies in energy research,” Acting UW President Neil Theobald says. “Such leading-edge research by the Center of Innovation for Flow through Porous Media (COIFPM) is critically important to the economy of Wyoming and to the research mission of this university.”

The research will be conducted at the COIFPM, which is housed in UW’s High Bay Research Facility. The knowledge gained will be used to calibrate computational simulators to better predict field performance; assess and mitigate potential risks; and ensure successful implementation in the field.

“This strategic collaboration among UW, Hess Corporation and Dow is integral for the successful deployment of this potentially transformative technology,” Piri says. “The continued investment by Hess Corporation in UW’s COIFPM has played a pivotal role in developing the technologies that in this initiative we have the opportunity to integrate for field deployment.”

Piri is the Thomas and Shelley Botts Endowed Chair in Unconventional Reservoirs and the Alchemy Sciences Endowed Chair in Petroleum Engineering. His collaborators at UW in this project include professors Lamia Goual, Soheil Saraji and Pejman Tahmasebi.

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