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October 2016 - Issue 9
Welcome to the Battelle Oil & Gas Newsletter. We put this together as a service to our friends in the oil and gas industry keep you informed of the latest news from our scientists and engineers and the industry.
Battelle works with oil and gas companies and others to advance the industry with the latest science and technology. Battelle Oil & Gas will keep you up-to-date on cutting edge technologies, services and processes.
What happens when you inject fluids deep into the earth? As the oil and gas industry expands the use of fluid injection for production, storage and disposal and CO2 storage and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technologies are developed, building a better understanding of subsurface structures and geomechanics is critical. Battelle is working on several projects that are shedding new light on the storage capacity of subsurface formations and mitigating the potential risks associated with deep geologic fluid injection. The results will be used to set safe injection limits and pressures and help oil & gas companies make better subsurface resource management decisions.
In a study co-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory and the Ohio Coal Development Office (OCDO), researchers are developing a geomechanical framework in the northern Appalachian Basin and surrounding Midwestern regions. The study is led by Battelle researchers Joel Sminchak (Principal Investigator) and Neeraj Gupta. The three-year project, which began in 2014, uses geophysical data, petrophysical data and laboratory test results to inform assessment of reservoir and geomechanical stresses and development of models for the area. The objective is to discover how faults, fractures and seismic stability affect carbon dioxide (CO2) injection potential and long-term storage security. Researchers will characterize the paleo-stress/strain setting, define geomechanical parameters, evaluate the potential for (and effects of) subsurface deformation, and ultimately assess CO2 storage potential based on geomechanical constraints.
Battelle is also conducting a large-scale CO2 storage test in Michigan as part of the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP). Battelle has led the MRCSP since 2003, and completed three successful small-scale carbon storage field tests between 2003 and 2009. As part of the current large-scale test, researchers have already evaluated and monitored more than 600,000 metric tons of CO2 injection in oil-bearing formations in Michigan, where CO2 produced from natural gas is being used for enhanced oil recovery by research partner Core Energy, LLC. The testing includes monitoring microseismic activity at injection pressures that exceed discovery pressure in the isolated buried reef structures to evaluate maximum safe CO2 storage potential in these highly depleted oil fields.
Over the last decade, the use of fluid injection for both production and resource management has risen significantly. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods inject millions of gallons of fluid underneath the surface to stimulate production. Brine produced over from these processes is often disposed of through deep geologic sequestration, or injection into sedimentary formations deep under the earth. The same technique can be used to sequester and store CO2 captured from power generation or other industrial activities. Geologic storage is seen as a potential solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and safely dispose of produced brine and wastewater where it cannot impact freshwater reserves or damage the environment.
However, the potential risks associated with fluid injection and geologic storage have not been fully characterized. Safe fluid injection requires an understanding of storage limits and safe injection pressures specific to each formation. Operators must also understand the geomechanical stability of the area. Better models are needed to map the storage potential of specific regions, characterize risks associated with geomechanical instability, and predict the impact of stresses caused by the injection of fluids into these deep formations. Battelle’s work will help answer questions such as:
Battelle researchers use coupled fluid-flow, geomechanical and fracture mechanics modeling in order to:
In addition to investigating the safety of brine disposal and CO2 storage, geomechanical modeling can be used to optimize production. Using geomechanics-fracture simulations, researchers can model hydraulic fracturing in a multi-staged hydraulically fractured horizontal well in shale formation to predict hydraulic fracture geometry and optimize hydraulic fracturing parameters (fluid and proppant volume and type).
Battelle researchers are continuing to refine geomechanical models in order to provide more accurate predictions for the oil & gas industry. Eventually, this work will lead to regional maps showing storage potential and injection limits for different parts of the formation. This data will allow the industry to more fully take advantage of the storage potential in deep geologic formations and mitigate the potential risks associated with fluid injection for both production and sequestration.
As polar bears move into closer proximity with humans, oil and gas developers working in the arctic may soon find themselves working near protected polar bear populations. Battelle has developed new environmental DNA (eDNA) collection methods to allow scientists to monitor polar bear populations using DNA left behind in their paw prints. A new study for the North Slope Borough of Alaska will validate eDNA methods for monitoring polar bear activity.
eDNA is DNA collected from cells or excretions left behind in water or sediments rather than collected from live animals. As animals move through the environment, they shed hair and skin cells and leave behind traces of DNA in urine, saliva and feces. Researchers can extract and sequence the DNA in environmental samples to determine what species are present or have passed through the area, from microbes to large animals. It allows for faster, easier and more cost-effective data collection for required biodiversity studies and environmental monitoring.
Battelle has already used genomics, including eDNA sampling methods, to monitor marine mammals including bowhead whales and gray whales. Genomic studies of bowhead whales, conducted on behalf of the North Slope Borough, were used to inform hunting quotas for indigenous villagers as well as oil & gas development activities. Similar studies are currently underway to provide new insights into gray whale population diversity and migration. Oil & gas companies can use data from eDNA studies to plan development activities and monitor environmental impact on protected species.
Current eDNA methods extract DNA from marine or freshwater environmental samples. This limits their utility for monitoring the movement of animals on land. Battelle has pioneered new methods that would allow DNA to be extracted from polar bear paw prints in snow. Snow samples from the paw prints are melted before extracting and amplifying DNA for analysis. This approach also promises to be transferrable to studies of non-aquatic species such as terrestrial bears.
DNA fingerprinting methods for polar bears are being developed using polar bear blood samples and environmental samples provided by the Columbus Zoo. The samples will be used to develop primers that can detect the presence of polar bears and to identify genetic loci (SNPs) that can be used to fingerprint individual bears. This will allow researchers to answer questions about population size, range and genetic variability to inform conservation efforts.
The North Slope Borough study begins this fall. In phase one, researchers will validate the eDNA collection methods. Phase two includes demonstration and validation of the DNA fingerprinting methods to track individual bears. Ultimately, data will be collected in order to estimate population size and set appropriate hunting quota limits for hunts conducted by the Eskimos in the North Slope. Indigenous populations in Alaska, Canada and parts of Russia depend on the bears for subsistence and ceremonial hunts in their traditional way of life.
Studies of polar bear genomics could help researchers monitor the success of conservation efforts and international treaties aimed at protecting polar bears. Polar bears are considered to be especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. However, many polar bear populations have not been thoroughly studied, making it difficult to monitor changes in population size or genetic variability over time. eDNA studies could help to fill in some of these knowledge gaps by making it faster, safer and cheaper to gather genomic data.
Battelle scientists are continuing to study and validate new eDNA methods. Eventually, researchers hope to use similar methods to extract DNA from soil samples, further expanding the range over which land animals could be monitored and the species that could be studied.
A concept for a halite-absorbing nano-sponge developed at Battelle has been named one of four winners in the first phase of the GE/Statoil Open Innovation Challenge. Battelle is one of two finalists chosen to progress to phase two of the competition, which will provide funding for further development and evaluation.
GE and Statoil launched the Open Innovation Challenge in 2015 to spur development of new water management technologies for the oil & gas industry. Water management is a significant challenge for onshore oil & gas development. This is especially true for shale gas developers, who use millions of gallons of water per well for hydraulic fracturing. Reducing freshwater use and finding better management solutions for brine and wastewater disposal are high priorities for the industry.
The Open Innovation Challenge received more than 100 submissions from across the globe. Four winners, including Battelle, were awarded $25,000 each for their water technology concepts.
Battelle’s winning concept, submitted by Anthony Duong, is a gel made up of nanoscale particles that can be injected into the hydraulic fracturing well. The nano-sponge material soaks up excess halite ions, which are the main actors in forming salt deposits. When halite ions are allowed to crystalize, they form deposits (scale) inside the wellbore and in pipelines that can eventually lead to blockages. Currently, operators reduce scaling by using chemical scale inhibitors and flushing with water to dissolve crystal formations. However, the chemicals used for descaling tend to be highly toxic, presenting health and environmental concerns. Water flushing requires large volumes of freshwater.
The nano-sponge could help oil & gas companies reduce their dependence on freshwater sources for flushing and replace toxic chemical scale inhibitors with a much less toxic alternative. The gel can be injected with water used for hydraulic fracturing or enhanced oil recovery or injected downstream to soak up excess halites and prevent the formation of salt crystals. The nanoparticles work by ion exchange. The material has low toxicity and much higher efficiency in preventing crystal formation compared to chemical scale inhibitors. The gel could potentially be recharged after it becomes saturated, further improving its environmental footprint and cost efficiency.
In phase two of the challenge, Battelle researchers will conduct lab-scale tests to confirm the concept. Eventually, they will conduct pilot-scale field testing for use in hydraulic fracturing. The nano-sponge material may have applications outside oil & gas, as well. It could be used in a variety of industrial processes where salt crystal formation is problematic.
What does it take to take a great idea from concept to commercial success? Thousands of small companies and startups are working to bring new technologies to the oil & gas industry. Battelle is working with many of them through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) and other programs aimed at helping companies cross the “valley of death” to bring new innovations to market.
Small businesses and technology startups are a hotbed of fresh new ideas that can lead to disruptive innovation in an industry. Within the oil & gas community, many small companies are working on technologies that could solve critical problems for the industry, from better brine disposal solutions to more durable high pressure/high temperature materials. But most startups fail before they can turn great ideas into market-ready products—a cycle commonly known in the investment community as the “valley of death curve.” The STTR program, administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and funded through various federal agencies, provides funding to help companies bring new technologies to market and foster technology transfer between research institutions and small business. The Department of Energy (DOE) funds STTR and SBIR grants for the oil & gas and energy industries.
Battelle works with small businesses in various industries—including the oil & gas space—each year, many of them funded through SBIR/STTR. As the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization, Battelle brings together a unique combination of resources to help such companies accelerate technology transfer and development. They use a systematic approach based on decades of experience in technology development for the oil & gas industry. The goal is to help companies bridge the gap between their vision and a market-ready product that is technically and economically viable. Battelle’s technology transfer services include:
Over the last decade, Battelle has helped numerous small businesses in the oil & gas industry bring new technologies to market. One of such small businesses is Olympic Research, Inc., which is developing self-forming ceramic plugs for downhole application in oil and gas, carbon storage, geothermal and borehole storage industries. Battelle is assisting with subject matter expertise on wellbore integrity and industry common practices and regulation. Battelle also recently assisted Olympic with the first field test of the technology.
New modeling methods for unconventional reservoirs could help oil & gas producers optimize well production. A recent article in The American Oil & Gas Reporter highlights some of Battelle’s work in this area.
Using data from 476 horizontal wells in the Wolfcamp Shale play in the Delaware Basin, researchers analyzed the factors that impact well performance. The analysis was used to develop predictive models and decision rules to help operators identify the wells with the most production potential and make effective decisions to maximize overall production.
Data-driven statistical modeling can be used to predict well performance and improve results from Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) efforts. Statistical models take less time to develop than mechanistic models such as physics-based simulators, allowing operators to extract important trends and information with less time and effort. However, choosing and applying the right algorithm is critical in order to extract meaningful results. This has been especially challenging for unconventional reservoirs. The Wolfcamp Shale study is helping to inform development of more robust models with better predictive power for complex unconventional reservoirs.
The study was conducted by Battelle researchers Jared Schuetter and Srikanta Mishra, along with Ming Zhong of Shell and Randy LaFollette of Baker Hughes. The complete article can be found in the April 2016 Special Report on Drilling Technology for The American Oil & Gas Reporter.
Battelle Senior Research Leader Srikanta Mishra spoke at the Conference on Advances in Big Data Modeling, Computation and Analytics at Texas A&M University on September 23. His talk, “Big Data Applications in Petroleum Exploration and Production,” was one of several invited sessions on the topic of Big Data Modeling and Applications.
During his session, Dr. Mishra presented examples of big data analytics and machine learning applications in the field of petroleum exploration and development. He also shared successes in improving operational efficiencies and challenges in mainstreaming big data workflows.
The sold-out conference brought together researchers and data scientists from a wide range of industries to discuss the latest developments in data analytics and statistical modeling. Dr. Mishra’s was the only session to focus specifically on the oil & gas industry. “Big data” applications are becoming increasingly important for oil & gas developers as the industry seeks to make further improvements in well productivity and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).
Dr. Mishra is an Institute Fellow and Senior Research Leader at Battelle, where he is responsible for developing and managing a technology portfolio related to subsurface fluid dynamics modeling and data analytics activities for geological carbon storage, improved oil recovery and shale gas development projects.
Samin Raziperchikolaee is bringing the mysteries of the subsurface to light. A Research Scientist on the Battelle Oil & Gas team, Samin applies geomechanical modeling to evaluate the risks of fluid injection and deep geologic sequestration. His work is helping Battelle’s oil & gas clients make better decisions for hydraulic fracturing, Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) and subsurface resource management.