Department of Energy to Invest $30 Million to Boost Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Recovery

January 3, 2018 


Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Laboratory (TMSL) – University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Lafayette, LA) will address knowledge gaps regarding the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS), enabling more cost-efficient and environmentally sound recovery from this unconventional liquid-rich shale play. The TMS has been estimated to contain 7 billion barrels of recoverable light, sweet crude oil, while its current total average production is only about 3,000 barrels of oil per day. Development of the TMS in eastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi could significantly impact local communities economically. However, over the past several decades, operators have been unsuccessful in the TMS play, in part due to its clay-rich nature which makes it sensitive to water. Improved understanding of the TMS, along with public scientific assessment of new approaches for developing the play, will expand and accelerate industry efforts to cultivate this resource with minimal environmental impact. DOE Funding: $3,680,000; Non-DOE Funding: $5,977,000; Total Value: $9,657,000.

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Very interesting article. It would be great to find a solution to getting this oil to the surface

Clay is the bane of unconventional formations.  Where clay makes the rock ductile instead of brittle, fracture propagation is retarded and induced fractures tend to close up regardless of the proppant type or load.  The Haynesville Shale above I-20 is, for the most part, non-economic owing to the clay content.  Even with a frac fluid other than water, it will be a daunting task to overcome the inhibiting effect of clay on rock brittleness.

Are you suggesting that clay will become brittle only when hell freezes over? :)

No chance of that at the bottom hole temps in the TMS!  :-)  Technology has overcome many obstacles to rendering challenging formations economic but too much and the wrong type of clay may be beyond the capabilities of technology.  Also keep in mind that the window for developing remedies is relatively short.  Any new advance that is not online in the next ten or so years may be too late if crude demand drops significantly.  Then will come the age of the stranded reserves.

Realizing that the Saudis have the ability to drop the bottom out of world crude prices anytime they get the whim makes we wonder if the oil discovery business might just be too risky for investors, other than fools and heavy betters, after the last shale bust.

The best barometer for the length of time that crude prices will support high cost projects is the major energy companies.  They have already cut back on investments in deep water exploration where it may take a decade or more to bring the really large fields online and moved to shorter investment cycle onshore unconventional development.  They are also adjusting their long term product mix to add natural gas reserves.  European based majors Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Statoil and Eni are looking at investing in alternative energy sources to eventually transition away from oil and gas.  The change in management philosophy is relatively recent and still not widely recognized outside the industry - but the trend is unmistakable.

The only trouble with the above article about TMS is that it is same 7 Billion barrels of oil that LSU says is in the Austin Chalk strata.  That number "seven" seems to be the common denominator for all oil in the area including Pointe Coupee Parish.  And in Pointe Coupee most of the TMS is down below 10,000 to 14,000 feet.  Austin Chalk overlays the TMS and TMS overlays the Tuscaloosa Trend (deep dry gas).  So where is the oil?  Austin Chalk or TMS or is it both? We have a dual lease out on coast of Pointe Coupee, oil down to 16,000 feet and below that for gas.  I so not think there will be any drilling until the price of crude oil gets to $80.00 barrel.


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