The Good, the Bad and the Ugly / RPSEA Report

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

The Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) was founded in 2002 as a non-profit national consortium. Subsequent to a competitive award, it was organized in accordance with Title IX, Subtitle J, Section 999 (Section 999) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct).

The program’s goal was to provide research and development to ensure the safe and efficient production of domestic resources to the citizens of the United States. RPSEA achieved its program goals by facilitating public-private partnerships while identifying and developing new methods and systems for exploring, producing and transporting energy resources.

RPSEA conducted both onshore and offshore R&D as well as supporting small U.S. producers through their Unconventional (Onshore) Resources Program, Ultra-Deepwater (Offshore) Program and Small Producer Program. RPSEA’s membership consisted of multiple research universities, five national laboratories, oil and gas producers, operators, service companies and various independent research institutions.

This major government-industry collaboration ended in January of this year.

The original objective of the Section 999 was to “maximize the value of natural gas and other petroleum resources of the United States.” However, the Deepwater Horizon incident caused the government and industry to reassess their approach to exploration and development operations and R&D needs.

In late 2010, the Department of Energy made the decision that all future RPSEA projects should be directed mainly toward safety and environmental sustainability. In addition, issues related to onshore development – such as water usage and treatment, induced seismicity, wellbore integrity and greenhouse gas emissions – were added to the objectives of the original program. As a result, the research RPSEA funded was focused to ensure that risks associated with the development of ultra-deepwater and unconventional resources were fully understood.

Through their various programs, RPSEA supported natural gas and oil resource development, enhanced the efficient use of energy and supported the development of intellectual capital and a skilled workforce. The technologies that were developed through this program have had an enormous impact and are well documented. Technology transfer has been a vital component of the program from its inception.

• The Ultra-Deepwater Offshore Program identified and developed technologies, research and development that ensure safe and environmentally responsible exploration and production of hydrocarbons from the ultra-deepwater portion of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in an economically viable manner.

Examples of projects include improved well control technologies, improved well design and construction, improved subsea monitoring instrumentation, research on sensors and increased understanding of complex fluid phase behaviors.

• The Unconventional Onshore Resources Program has helped increase the supply of domestic natural gas and other petroleum resources through reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of exploration and production, all while improving safety and minimizing environmental impact.

Examples of projects include maximizing efficiency of hydraulic fracturing operations, isolation of producing formations and wellbores from shallower formations, prediction and mitigation of induced seismicity, and demonstrating and integrating technologies to facilitate early utilization and commercialization.

While this government-industry collaboration ended in January of this year, it is the hope of many to see these types of relationships and partnerships continue.

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