While the Department of Energy (DOE) does not have the benefit of unlimited research dollars, deputy assistant secretary Shawn Bennett said the federal agency will be strategic as it continues to aggressively pursue partnerships with oil and gas leaders to improve technology in the industry.
Speaking during an early morning session at OTC on Tuesday, May 7, Bennett offered encouragement and support to the offshore industry in this time of fossil fuel uncertainty. He said the DOE is behind the offshore industry and its viable research projects.
“We know that industry invests in research that creates competitive advantage, but we also have some research questions the industry will not pursue at all,” Bennett said during the “DOE Oil and Gas: Addressing Technology and Market Challenges” session.
“These are the research question challenges that we are looking for and that is very important. We want to see what questions are out there that need to be answered for the industry as a whole, work on those and what we can fit into our niche,” he said. “We tend to focus our research on increasing ultimate recovery, operational efficiency in a safe and sustainable manner as our contribution to meeting the president’s goal.”
Bennett pointed to the gas-hydrate program and last month’s announcement of funding for advanced subsea systems technology as proof that the department is behind offshore research. The subsea systems technology will improve efficiency along with improving the capabilities for advance oil recovery and offshore wells. The DOE will provide up to $15 million toward the project.
Bennett said the project will be executed in two phases. Phase 1 consists of the group concept, validation of tools, technologies and processes in a laboratory or field analogue setting. Then Phase 2 will move the project forward with a full-scale prototype demonstration that is expected to persuade the stakeholders to continue developing the technology and commercialization of the project.
“That’s what is very important when I talk about partnership because we invest early in R&D,” Bennett said. “We want to get it to the point where industry can commercialize it and move forward and have a lasting impact on the world.”
Bennett said the DOE is striving to make its research highly relevant to the needs of the industry and that is a priority for the agency.
“We don’t drill wells, but we want to make sure the security of the nation is sup-ported by DOE’s science and technology capabilities,” he said. “We cost share our research with [the] industry and value all of our public and private partnerships. You can actually see this through a lot of the field labs that are currently onshore.”
Crude oil inventories in the U.S. now sit at their lowest levels since October 2018, and that tightness, along with strong demand, has helped drive oil prices higher.
Gas supplies have been tight in Southern California for years due to the pipeline limitations and reduced availability of the utility's biggest storage field at Aliso Canyon.
The decline was the result of a sharp falloff in imports and a 2.3 million-barrel drawdown in oil stockpiles at the Cushing delivery hub for crude futures in Oklahoma.