As cash-strapped oil and gas companies cope with lower commodity prices, technology has perhaps never been more important to the industry.

Technological advances—such as advanced analytics for predictive maintenance, new subsea wellhead systems, BOP testing tools and managed pressure drilling and real-time drilling intelligence solutions—have played roles in some companies’ abilities to become more efficient and grow production.

Such industry-led solutions are leading to gains in the oil patch and the U.S. government wants to help.

Recently the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said it is doling out $20 million worth of grants. The federal government is particularly interested in helping fund efforts aimed at preventing offshore spills and leaks and boosting recovery from unconventional oil and gas wells.

“This oil and gas research funding opportunity underscores the department’s commitment to developing all of the nation’s energy resources,” Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Doug Hollett said in a news release. The funding opportunity will support the Office of Fossil Fuels, the division of the DOE that is primarily responsible for R&D.

“Increased efficiency and reliability of preventative and recovery measures promote our energy security, and contribute to making the United States energy dominant,” Hollett added.

News of the funds for the cost-shared oil and gas research projects was announced June 21 as the agency works to advance its “objective to support a more environmentally responsible, secure and resilient U.S. energy infrastructure, while enhancing economic competitiveness and national security.”

The funding for projects is allocated for three areas:

  • $15 million for technology validation using field laboratories for unconventional oil and gas development;
  • $3 million for advancement in subsurface diagnostics for unconventional oil and gas development; and
  • $2 million for offshore spill and leak prevention.

As explained in the news release, the two unconventional oil and gas areas are aimed at improving knowledge about reservoir behavior as well as completion, stimulation and recovery strategies.

The aim of these topic areas is to increase and enable more cost-efficient and environmentally sound recovery from shale gas, tight oil and tight gas reservoirs,” the DOE said.

With the offshore spill and leak prevention funding, the federal agency hopes to find and develop solutions that “predict geologic hazards, and prepare for and prevent offshore incidents through risk reduction and mitigation technologies.”

For more information about funding opportunities in the area of unconventional oil and gas development, visit the DOE’s website. The application deadline is Aug. 15. Information on additional funding opportunities is also available.

The funding availability news came during a week of DOE announcements that also brought news that the department is awarding $116 million worth of grants to more than 180 small businesses through the DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, which include other DOE offices, for R&D.

These grants could lead to the availability of new fossil fuel technology in the areas of sensors for direct, rapid and complete elemental analysis of coal as well as cost-effective optical seismic systems for hydraulic fracture diagnostics. Both were cited as selected grants.

Velda Addison can be reached at