April 2020
Grant Awarded To Help Research Into Developing Waterless Reservoir Stimulation

Originally posted by the National Science Foundation

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project is to develop a novel waterless rock fracturing technology that can replace hydraulic fracturing in the future. Hydraulic fracturing requires pumping of millions of gallons of water into a reservoir to create permeable pathways within the rock, and increase hydrocarbon recovery rates. However, hydraulic fracturing technology has been banned in some regions within the United States, and in various countries across the globe due to water scarcity and environmental concerns. This has left trillions of dollars in petroleum resources trapped within the earth, negatively impacting the global economy. The waterless fracturing technology being developed under this project utilizes pulsed electrical energy to fracture rocks instead of water, allowing for hydrocarbons to be recovered with minimum environmental impact. The research conducted during this project will provide further insights into the advantages of utilizing electricity to fracture petroleum reservoirs and assist in accelerating successful commercialization of the technology.

This SBIR Phase II project proposes to develop a novel electric reservoir stimulation method to increase reservoir permeability without requiring pumping of hazardous material into the subsurface. This project will advance the development of an electric stimulation method by testing it on rock samples under higher pressure and temperature conditions, to mimic the downhole conditions of several common petroleum reservoirs and allow for optimization. This project will also include the design of a downhole tool that will be utilized to carry electrical current from the surface to the target reservoir for field demonstrations of the technology.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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