DOE Gives New Mexico $4.1 Mln for Fossil Energy R&D Projects

Under Secretary of Energy David Garman announced today that the Department of Energy will provide more than $4.1 million to New Mexico for five new research and development projects that hold the promise to strengthen our Nation's energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect human health.

"The President's National Energy Policy calls attention to the continuing need to strengthen our energy security and protect the Nation's health and environment," Under Secretary Garman said. "These important projects will greatly help in achieving the security, environmental, and public health goals this administration has set."

The projects build on three decades of U.S. success in reducing the adverse environmental and public health impacts from energy development and use. One of the projects will examine the health effects of fine particulates emitted from coal-fired power plants, while four will promote enhanced oil and gas recovery.

One of the oil and gas projects has an additional benefit. By answering questions about the increased use of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery, it may allow more carbon dioxide to be injected into geologic formations. Not only could more oil be produced but, in this win-win scenario, the carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas, would be prevented from entering the atmosphere.

The total award value of the five projects is $8.36 million. The Energy Department will provide $4.16 million of the total cost. The projects will be managed for the Energy Department by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Descriptions of the selected projects follow:

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, N.M.) will create a free, widely available, internet-based tool to aid in finding new oil reserves. Called the fuzzy expert exploration tool, the tool will analyze drilling prospects and reduce the risk of drilling new wells. It will simulate, but not replace, a human expert. The tool was originally developed for the Brushy Canyon formation in New Mexico. Having proven its predictive abilities there, it will now be extended to additional formations to demonstrate its portability. The tool will ultimately be available to companies of any size, it will be heavily customizable, and it will require only an internet connection and browser to operate the software. (Project duration: 36 months; Total award value: $1,199,998)

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, N.M.) will develop methods to increase oil production by chemically blocking the voids or spaces in reservoir rocks. Researchers will first develop materials that can be effectively positioned to block the voids and minimize the flow of both oil and water through them. Next, they will develop materials such as gels and polymers that will reduce the flow of water through the voids, but will allow oil to pass. By increasing pressure in the formations and selectively controlling the flow of oil and water, these methods will enable oil producers to extract more oil. The research will include both laboratory and theoretical studies. (Project duration: 36 months; Total award value: $1,199,903)

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, N.M.) will focus on reducing the amount of oil bypassed during CO2 injection, an enhanced oil recovery technique used after the more-easily-produced oil has been extracted. Much of the work will be conducted in the laboratory to determine practical information for designing gas-foam systems for a wide range of reservoir types. Among other tasks, the researchers will develop models simulating CO2 flooding mechanisms. Not only will the project results improve oil recovery, but they may enable more CO2 to be stored in geologic formations. (Project duration: 30 months; Total award value: $1,199,965)

Correlations Company (Socorro, N.M.) will develop a novel process to improve oil recovery by increasing the ability of some rock formations to absorb water. While limited, data exists to support the idea that increasing the "wettability" of reservoir rock results in additional oil recovery. The goal will require laboratory and field experiments, and an analysis of the variables affecting the experimental results. If the technology advances to the point that it works in half of U.S. shallow-shelf carbonate reservoirs, it could increase domestic oil production by some 800 million barrels. (Project duration: 24 months; Total award value: $1,497,947)

Lovelace Biomedical & Environmental Research Institute (Albuquerque, N.M.) will conduct research to determine what link, if any, exists between the fine particulates emitted from coal-fired power plants, and health problems in humans. Fine particulates are particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameteróless than 1/30th the width of a human hair, and invisible to the naked eye. While it has been established that these particles do affect human health, there is little information to provide a link between the particles from coal plants and cardiac or respiratory health problems in humans. The research results will be used to help design standards reviews, and to devise strategies for controlling power plant emissions. (Project duration: 36 months; Total award value: $3,269,342)

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