Unconventional Shale Science & Natural Gas 2018-09-28T16:09:35+00:00

Unconventional Shale Science and Natural Gas

Unconventional Shale Science and Natural Gas

Conventionally, natural gas has been collected from underground reservoirs, where the gas is trapped in well-connected pores in a rock such as sandstone. Once tapped, the gas rises to the surface, often under its own drive, for collection. Thanks to new technology, natural gas can also be collected unconventionally—in reservoirs of rock that have tiny pores that aren’t well connected. Unconventional natural gas refers to natural gas collected from these historically less-developed sources using newer, unconventional methods.

Oil and natural gas are responsible for roughly two-thirds of US energy consumption. Yet for more than twenty years, production has outpaced the discovery of reserves that can be produced conventionally. Due to higher prices and new technology, the United States has become the world’s largest natural gas producer, balancing the country’s supply-demand and helping to ensure the country’s energy and national security needs. Unconventional plays are challenging to commercialize. The cost of production can be high and no two reservoirs are similar.

What We Do

Sandia’s research includes experiments and simulations that help to manipulate how fluid flows underground and what can be done to improve the control and recovery of oil and natural gas resources. Sandia focuses on nano- to core-scale experiments and simulations addressing fluid flow manipulation and improved recovery, fundamental behavior, and adaptive control of subsurface fractures and flow to enable unconventional oil and natural gas collection. We are capable of imaging and monitoring the subsurface through multiphysics and coupled process approaches, developing technologies to monitor and manipulate fluid flow. We are also capable of imaging and monitoring the subsurface through molecular modeling.

Some examples of how Sandia’s capabilities support a safer energy future:

  • Produced water is so salty that it is difficult to treat economically. Salts and metal cannot be removed and disposal solutions are not established. Produced water reuse or treatment technology might enable reuse or safe storage.
  • Sandia’s experimentation and simulation capabilities can produce and validate data at a wide range of scales, making a more realistic model or simulation.
  • Improved permeability and oil recovery models may help assess economic feasibility or environmental impacts, particularly when using new technologies or trying to predict impacts far into the future.

Shale at all Scales

This workshop consisted of invited talks, poster sessions, a field trip, and breakout sessions. Invited talks addressed geochemical, geomechanical, and hydrogeological coupling over multiple temporal and spatial scales. “Shales at All Scales” assembled researchers from industry, academia, and national laboratories to identify the next level of advancement needed for understanding multiscale coupled processes in shale. Fundamental coupled processes were the main focus, with an eye to engineering and industry applications.