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ESUP Project Receives Federal Funding

Field Laboratory for Emerging Stacked Unconventional Plays (ESUP) seeks to strengthen America’s energy dominance, protect air and water quality, and position the nation as a global leader in unconventional oil and natural gas.

Early this spring, researchers from Virginia Tech's mining and minerals engineering department were awarded almost $8 million in DOE funding to investigate and characterize the resource potential for the multi-play production of emerging unconventional reservoirs in the Nora Gas Field of southwest Virginia.

Dr. Nino Ripepi

The funding is part of a broader US Department of Energy initiative which funded six projects for cost-shared research and development in unconventional oil and natural gas recovery. These projects, selected under the Office of Fossil Energy’s Advanced Technology Solutions for Unconventional Oil and Gas Development funding opportunity, will address critical gaps in the understanding of reservoir behavior and optimal well-completion strategies, next-generation subsurface diagnostic technologies, and advanced offshore technologies.

The DOE award is complemented by an additional $3 million in outside funding, bringing the total project value to over $11 million. Dr. Nino Ripepi, Virginia Tech Mining and Minerals Engineering Associate Professor, will serve as project director and principal investigator for the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research (VCCER) on its project: Field Laboratory for Emerging Stacked Unconventional Plays (ESUP). Plays are groups of oil and/or natural gas fields or prospects in a given geologic formation.

Diagram of the deep characterization well to be drilled as part of the ESUP project.

The first major objective of ESUP is to investigate and characterize the resource potential for multi‐play production of emerging unconventional reservoirs in the Nora Gas Field of southwest Virginia by drilling, logging, and coring a deep vertical test well up to 15,000 feet deep. The second objective is to evaluate and quantify the benefits of novel completion strategies for lateral wells in the unconventional Lower Huron Shale. This will be accomplished by monitoring the drilling and completing at least one multi‐stage lateral well in the emerging (and technologically accessible) Lower Huron Shale.

An important benefit of the project will be to assess the multi-play resource potential and to recommend a strategy for its prudent development. The project team will work with stakeholders to characterize the potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of multiplay production in the region.