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Providing technical aid to small producers in America's oil fields

Two new projects selected for grants in DOE's 'Technology Development with Independents' program

Tulsa, OK - With America's oil production increasingly being supplied by small independent producers, the U.S. Department of Energy is continuing its efforts to help the smallest of these companies test higher-risk technologies that could keep oil flowing from thousands of U.S. fields.

As part of its Fossil Energy research program, the Department has added two new projects to its "Technology Development with Independents Program:"

  • Woolsey Petroleum Corporation, Wichita, KS, to study ways to improve "hydraulic fracturing," a technique in which water is injected into an oil-bearing formation to open fractures in the underground rock and free oil that might otherwise not be produced;

  • Tenneco Energy LLC, Wheat Ridge, CO, to help restore production in East Texas oil fields by using advanced computer imaging technology, new logging tools to locate promising geologic features, and high capacity pumps.

The "Technology Development with Independents Program" provides matching grants of up to $75,000 to companies willing to apply innovative approaches that can lower operating costs and extend the life of marginally producing fields.

The program reflects the growing importance of small oil producers in supplying America's demand for oil. The domestic oil industry has changed significantly over the last 15 years, with larger oil companies moving to more lucrative prospects overseas leaving behind smaller companies to continue producing aging and often declining U.S. oil fields. Independent producers now account for 40 percent of the oil produced in the United States and nearly 60 percent of the oil produced from onshore fields in the lower 48 states.

Since 1999, the "Technology Development with Independents Program" has provided small businesses in 13 states, each with less than 50 employees, the financial backing to test new techniques that might otherwise have remain untried.

The program is one of several initiatives in the Energy Department's fossil energy program that is working to slow or halt the decline in U.S. oil production. The types of technologies considered included reservoir characterization, well drilling, completion or stimulation, environmental compliance, artificial lift, well remediation, secondary or tertiary oil recovery, and production management.

Companies that achieve success in prolonging the productive life of their fields convey the techniques to other small producers facing similar difficulties.

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