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USGS News: Energy
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News about energy from the USGS
News about energy from the USGS

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USGS Releases Three Approaches for Estimating Recovery Factors in Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Oil Recovery: The three methods evaluated are: reservoir computer modeling using CO2 Prophet software reservoir decline curve analysis based on historic reservoir production data a review of scientific literature that describes past reservoir production The CO2 Prophet model was developed for the U.S. Department of Energy by Texaco Corp., and has been used as a scoping and an assessment tool to evaluate potential candidate reservoirs for CO2 injection. Decline curve analysis is an empirical method used to estimate recoverable hydrocarbon volumes by analyzing the plots of the historical production rate against time or cumulative production from a reservoir. The new report provides detailed analysis of CO2- enhanced oil recovery petroleum field performance and finds that the three evaluated approaches are viable options to calibrate estimates of incremental recovery factors for CO2-based enhanced oil recovery. In addition, the report and three approaches will support on-going USGS assessments of recoverable hydrocarbons by using CO2-enhaced oil recovery techniques in conventional oil reservoirs in the United States. Using injected carbon dioxide to stimulate oil and gas production is one type of a process called enhanced oil recovery, which can boost production from a petroleum field that has been producing oil and gas for some time. Carbon dioxide injection is one of the more common forms of enhanced oil recovery because it makes it easier for crude oil to flow into the well and is cheaper than most other gases. Injecting carbon dioxide into rock formations is also one method for preventing carbon from reaching the atmosphere by storing it, a process known as carbon sequestration. The most common method of geologic carbon storage involves pressurizing carbon dioxide gas into a liquid, and then injecting it into subsurface rock layers for long-term storage. The United States has significant geologic storage potential for carbon dioxide. In 2013, the USGS estimated that the mean storage potential for sedimentary basins in the United States is 3,000 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide. For comparison, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2011, the United States emitted 5.5 metric gigatons of energy-related CO2, while the global emissions of energy-related CO2 totaled 31.6 metric gigatons.  Metric gigatons are a billion metric tons. Chapters in the report include: General Introduction and Recovery Factors, By Mahendra K. Verma Using CO2 Prophet to Estimate Recovery Factors for Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Oil Recovery, By Emil D. Attanasi Application of Decline Curve Analysis to Estimate Recovery Factors for Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Oil Recovery, By Hossein Jahediesfanjani Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Oil Recovery Performance According to the Literature, By Ricardo A. Olea Summary of the Analyses for Recovery Factors, By Mahendra K. Verma The complete report is accessible at: Three Approaches for Estimating Recovery Factors in Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Oil Recovery To learn more about this or other geologic assessments, please visit the USGS Energy Resources Program website. Stay up to date with USGS energy science by subscribing to our newsletter or by following us on Twitter. #energy

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Media Advisory: Low-Flying Airplane Mapping Pendleton Area: Residents should not be alarmed if they see a low-flying airplane over Pendleton and surrounding areas starting around June 8. For about 45 days, an airplane operated under contract to the U.S. Geological Survey will be making low-level flights over a 5000-square-mile area that includes Pendleton, the Umatilla Indian Reservation and surrounding areas. Anyone observing the low-flying plane should not be alarmed if they see it fly overhead or pass below the horizon. The contractor will be following all guidelines established by the Federal Aviation Administration, and the aircraft will be operated by experienced pilots, specially trained for low-level flying. The airborne survey is part of a larger USGS project to study geothermal resources and earthquake hazards of the region. It will include ground-based gravity and magnetotelluric measurements and an airborne lidar (high-precision measurements on topographic elevation) survey. The study is being done in cooperation with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. It is part of an ongoing USGS program to identify hidden geologic features, such as changes in rock types, ultimately providing a better understanding of the geology and hydrology of the area. For example, the survey may help map shallow faults possibly associated with the moderate-magnitude earthquake that occurred near Milton-Freewater in 1936. The airplane is operated by EDCON-PRJ of Lakewood, Colorado, which is working with the FAA to ensure flights are safe and in accordance with U.S. law. This airplane is a Cessna-180, specially modified for low-altitude geophysical surveys. The magnetic sensor (magnetometer) is located at the tip of the "stinger" attached to the rear of the airplane. The survey is designed to measure the magnetic field of the earth, which is related to rock formations that lie below the land surface. (Credit: Michael Hobbs, EDCON-PRJ, Inc., Public domain.) #energy

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President Proposes $922 Million FY18 Budget for USGS: Annual Federal Appropriations Process — Here you will find documents such as Budget Justifications (Greenbook), press releases, funding tables, fact sheets, and more, organized by fiscal year. Read the full details. #energy

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Unconventional Oil and Gas Production Not Currently Affecting Drinking Water Quality: A new U.S. Geological Survey study shows that unconventional oil and gas production in some areas of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas is not currently a significant source of methane or benzene to drinking water wells. These production areas include the Eagle Ford, Fayetteville, and Haynesville shale formations, which are some of the largest sources of natural gas in the country and have trillions of cubic feet of gas. This is the first study of these areas to systematically determine the presence of benzene and methane in drinking water wells near unconventional oil and gas production areas in relation to the age of the groundwater. Methane and benzene, produced by many unconventional oil and gas wells, have various human health implications when present in high concentrations in drinking water. The USGS has pioneered the ability to determine the age of groundwater. “Understanding the occurrence of methane and benzene in groundwater in the context of groundwater age is useful because it allows us to assess whether the hydrocarbons were from surface or subsurface sources. The ages indicate groundwater moves relatively slowly in these aquifers. Decades or longer may be needed to fully assess the effects of unconventional oil and gas production activities on the quality of groundwater used for drinking water,” said Peter McMahon, USGS hydrologist and study lead. USGS scientists collecting water quality samples at a public-supply well overlying the Eagle Ford Shale production area in Texas. (Credit: Patty Ging, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.) The USGS examined 116 domestic and public-supply wells in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas that were located as close as 360 feet to unconventional oil and gas wells. Methane was detected in 91 percent of the wells and, of those, 90 percent had methane concentrations lower than the threshold of 10 milligrams per liter. The Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement proposed this threshold for the purposes of protection from explosive risk. Most of the methane detected in groundwater was from naturally occurring microbial sources at shallow depths rather than deep shale gas. Although benzene was detected in 8 percent of the wells sampled, concentrations were low––the highest concentration was nearly 40 times lower than the federal standard for benzene in drinking water (5 micrograms per liter). Benzene was detected about 1.5 to 8 times more frequently in the study area groundwater than in national data sets of benzene in groundwater. Groundwater in the Louisiana and Texas study areas typically entered the aquifers several thousand years ago. Nearly all the benzene detected in those areas occurred in old groundwater, indicating it was from subsurface sources such as natural hydrocarbon migration or leaking oil and gas wells. In Arkansas, groundwater was much younger—typically less than 40 years old. Benzene was detected in one sample of young groundwater in Arkansas that could be associated with a surface release associated with unconventional oil and gas production activities. The article, “Methane and Benzene in Drinking-water Wells Overlying the Eagle Ford, Fayetteville, and Haynesville Shale Hydrocarbon Production Areas,” is published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. #energy

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President Proposes $922 Million FY18 Budget for USGS: President Donald Trump today proposed a $922.2 million Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget for the U.S. Geological Survey.  This highlights the Administration’s commitment to increasing efficiency across the federal government and science supporting national objectives and priorities.  The President’s proposed FY18 request reflects a savings of $137.8 million in appropriated funds from the FY 2017 CR baseline and a continued commitment to the bureau’s core mission.  “President Trump promised the American people he would cut wasteful spending and make the government work for the taxpayer again, and that's exactly what this budget does,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Working carefully with the President, we identified areas where we could reduce spending and also areas for investment, such as addressing the maintenance backlog in our National Parks and increasing domestic energy production on federal lands. The budget also allows the Department to return to the traditional principles of multiple-use management to include both responsible natural resource development and conservation of special places. Being from the West, I've seen how years of bloated bureaucracy and D.C.-centric policies hurt our rural communities. The President's budget saves taxpayers by focusing program spending, shrinking bureaucracy, and empowering the front lines."   The request ensures that the USGS will continue to focus on conducting leading-edge research and providing impartial scientific data to key stakeholders and decision-makers to help promote stewardship of public lands and waters and protect the health, safety and prosperity of the Nation.  America First Energy:  The USGS budget places strong emphasis on assessing the occurrence, quality, supply and use of energy and critical mineral resources.  The FY18 budget request for the USGS Energy and Minerals Resources Mission Area is $74.4 million.  The agency will continue to assess energy resources and provide publicly available scientific data and tools to inform energy policy discussions as well as to support science-based decisions that facilitate responsible resource management, including oil, gas, coal, geothermal, uranium and gas hydrate energy resource activities.  This request will also allow the USGS to focus on understanding the genesis and distribution of the Nation’s critical mineral resources, particularly in Alaska, midcontinent and southeast regions of the United States.  America’s Public Lands:  The USGS proposed budget promotes the Department of the Interior’s stewardship for public lands by providing science support for disaster alerts and rapid response, producing high-resolution geospatial data, addressing new and emerging invasive species and disease, tackling water challenges and supporting development for the Landsat 9 satellite ground system.  The USGS will also conduct work on environmental impacts of resource extraction and understanding how mineral resources interact with the environment to affect human and ecosystem health.  The agency will also continue to develop and apply new methods to forecast, detect and understand health implications of toxins produced by harmful algal blooms.  Additionally, the USGS will continue research to understand contaminants and pathogens related to drinking waters. The President’s FY18 budget request for the Natural Hazards Mission Area is $118.1 million.  This provides resources to continue the agency’s natural hazard research, monitoring, response and mitigation capability.  With the FY18 budget, the USGS will be able to monitor the Nation's earthquakes via the Advanced National Seismic System and deliver rapid earthquake impact and situational awareness products to support emergency response.  The budget also will enable the USGS to continue to conduct field investigations of volcanoes and inform volcano monitoring strategies and volcanic hazard assessments.  Additionally, it will enable the USGS to continue to communicate earthquake and volcano information to the public.  The FY18 budget also supports science to develop, test and advance tools and methods for landslide monitoring, hazard assessment and forecasting, as well as post-wildfire debris-flow hazard assessments for major wildfires. The President’s FY18 budget request for the Core Science Systems Mission Area is $93.0 million.  With the FY18 proposal, the USGS will continue the 3D Elevation Program with acquisition of high-resolution lidar elevation data across the Nation to support topographic map production, and to help protect infrastructure and natural resources and improve public safety.  Mapping accuracy through cutting-edge technology allows for precise planning for energy development, transportation and pipeline infrastructure projects, urban planning, flood prediction, emergency response and hazard mitigation.  The USGS will also continue acquisition of high-resolution interferometric synthetic aperture radar elevation data as part of the Alaska Mapping Initiative.  The USGS will also develop more efficient means of updating hydrography and producing topographic maps. The President’s FY18 budget request for the Ecosystems Mission Area is $132.1 million to support ecosystem research, health, development and monitoring.  The USGS will provide science to support fish and wildlife management, water filtration and pollution control, healthy soils, pollination and reduction of the effects of wildfires and other natural disasters.  The budget supports funding for the network of Cooperative Research Units that support communities with resource management science.  The USGS will continue to inform long-term conservation and management strategies by providing science on the sage steppe habitat, interactions of rangeland fire and drought management and wildlife and invasive species interactions under stressed conditions.  The USGS will also improve detection and control methods for economically and ecologically costly invasive species including Asian carp, invasive mussels, sea lamprey, brown tree snakes and Burmese pythons, and enhance wildlife disease risk assessment, surveillance and management tools. The President’s FY18 budget request for the Water Resources Mission Area is $173.0 million.  The budget request supports a robust network of more than 8,000 streamgages.  It will ensure continued research vital to preserving the Nation’s water resources.  With the FY18 budget, the USGS will continue to measure and analyze water use information in cooperation with other Federal agencies, States, localities and Tribes to determine the amount of water used, where it is used and how it is used to support water managers.  The USGS will also focus on drought research, including determining the changing importance of snowmelt in the water cycle that can provide a regional and national picture of how water availability and use changes during drought. The FY18 budget request for the Land Resources Mission Area (formerly Climate and Land Use) is $112.8 million.  The renaming of this mission area reflects its actual problem-solving focus on meeting the practical science needs of land managers.   With the FY18 budget, the USGS will continue the Landsat program, including support to develop the Landsat 9 mission ground system in close collaboration with NASA.  The USGS will refine the ground system design and procure necessary requirements, as well as implement an initial operating capability to allow users to access the entire Landsat archive. Additionally, the USGS will compile a continental-scale synthesis of natural patterns of drought to quantify the extent and magnitude of past long-term droughts, as well as their impacts on terrestrial and aquatic communities and other natural resources.  These models will allow resource managers to evaluate potential impacts of various land-use and water-management strategies, and improve support of tribal efforts in planning for and adapting to climate change impacts to fish and wildlife resources.  The USGS FY 2018 Budget Justification is available here, and additional details on the President's FY 2018 Budget are available on the Department’s website. #energy

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Proven under Pressure: USGS Advances Capabilities for High-Pressure Seafloor Samples Containing Gas Hydrate: In 2015, a drilling expedition staffed by scientists from India, Japan, and the United States discovered widespread, high-saturation accumulations of natural gas hydrate in the sediments of the Bay of Bengal during the second Indian National Gas Hydrate Program (NGHP-02).  This expedition marked the first discovery of Indian Ocean methane hydrate deposits that might contain producible amounts of natural gas.  Another highlight of the expedition was the unprecedented recovery of over 500 feet of sediments in pressure cores, which are specially designed to maintain sediments and their associated gas hydrates at the original sub-seafloor pressure conditions. A pressure core containing hydrate-bearing sediments recovered from beneath the seafloor during the NGHP-02 drilling expedition in the Indian Ocean in 2015 is delivered by Mike Mimitz (Geotek Ltd., blue coveralls) to the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in March 2017 after the core’s 10,000 mile sea voyage from Japan.(Image courtesy of Geotek Ltd.) After about 18 months in storage at the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Sapporo, Japan, five of the pressure cores were delivered to the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in March 2017.  The pressure cores will be analyzed in the newly-inaugurated USGS Hydrate Pressure Core Analysis Laboratory (HyPrCAL).  This facility is the first in the U.S. to be designed for and dedicated to the analysis of pressure cores.  USGS scientists will use HyPrCAL to conduct geotechnical, electrical, and hydraulic measurements on hydrate-bearing pressure cores and to complete benchtop testing of methane production from gas hydrates. Gas hydrate is a naturally-occurring, ice-like substance that concentrates methane gas within cages of water molecules.  Globally, gas hydrate traps vast amounts of methane and is stable only within the range of pressure and temperature conditions found in some sea floor sediments and permafrost environments.  The large amounts of methane in the deposits and their occurrence at shallower depths than conventional gas reservoirs render gas hydrates a potential energy resource.   Pressure core transport and storage chambers awaiting certification for shipping within the U.S.  When completed, these chambers will include pressure and temperature monitoring and an accumulator to stabilize the chamber’s pressure.   Photograph courtesy of Spencer Composites Corporation. (Image courtesy of Spencer Composites Corporation) Because gas hydrate is only stable at certain pressures and temperatures, collecting and storing samples for analysis in the laboratory have been challenging. The ability to retrieve samples and analyze them in a laboratory setting has been among the most important innovations of the past 15 years for advancing understanding of the energy resource potential of gas hydrate.  “This is an exciting time to be working on gas hydrates,” said Carolyn Ruppel, Chief Scientist for the USGS Gas Hydrates Project.  “With support from the Department of Energy, the USGS has been able to build on our existing expertise in pressure core analysis and establish the appropriate facilities and infrastructure to ensure our continued contributions to understanding gas hydrate as a potential energy resource.” The pressure cores retrieved during the Indian Ocean expedition were delivered to the USGS using a special packing method devised by Geotek, Ltd. to meet U.S. Department of Transportation requirements.  All five cores arrived at the USGS at full pressure, meaning that the hydrate recovered in these cores 21 months ago should still be intact.  USGS researchers participated in the recovery of these pressure cores aboard the D/V Chikyu in summer 2015 under the leadership of USGS Senior Scientist Timothy Collett.  Since then, USGS scientists have collaborated with their counterparts from India and AIST to develop an analytical strategy for these rare samples. USGS physical scientist Lee-Gray Boze and research engineer Junbong Jang depressurize one of the test chambers that make up the Pressure Core Characterization Tools in HyPrCAL, the new USGS pressure core analysis facility.  Inset photograph shows the new laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Credit: USGS.(Public domain.) The USGS HyPrCAL facility will not only analyze NGHP-02 pressure cores, but may also receive pressure cores from an upcoming U.S.-led drilling expedition in the northern Gulf of Mexico, as well as from possible future programs on the Alaskan North Slope and in international locations.  The standalone HyPrCAL facility is refrigerated to maintain gas hydrate within its stability zone, while the pressure core chambers and the special analytical tools sustain the required pressures during analyses.  HyPrCAL hosts the Pressure Core Characterization Tools (PCCTs) originated by J. Carlos Santamarina at Georgia Tech and transferred to the USGS in 2015.  The USGS Gas Hydrates Project is modifying the PCCTs and building new devices to enhance analytical capabilities for hydrate-bearing pressure cores.  The laboratory tools yield crucial data that help to explain measurements made in seafloor boreholes and inferences drawn from marine seismic surveys.  The PCCTs also provide the best approach for monitoring changes in sediment properties inside the pressure chambers during controlled experiments to extract methane from the gas hydrate.  The resulting data are critical for refining reservoir models for natural gas hydrate systems. (Top) X-ray image of hydrate-bearing pressure core collected ~168 feet below the seafloor in the Indian Ocean during the first National Gas Hydrate Program (NGHP-01).  White features are hydrate, and darker material is the surrounding sediment.  Image courtesy of Geotek, Ltd.  (Bottom) Gas hydrate (ice-like material) and sediment (dark material) in a conventional core recovered from below the sea floor during NGHP-01. Photograph by T. Collett.(Image courtesy of Geotek, Ltd.) As part of the USGS effort to facilitate research on pressure cores in the broader community, the USGS Gas Hydrates Project is also nearing the end of an 18-month-long process to build pressure core storage chambers that meet the requirements of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for high-pressure vessels and those of the US Department of Transportation and the American Bureau of Shipping for overland and shipboard transport to and within the US.  Once the approvals are complete, any user will be able to order chambers of the same design under the certifications being obtained now.  Murray Hitzman, USGS Associate Director for Energy and Minerals, said, “Through these innovations and other activities, the USGS plays a leadership role in advancing national interests related to the characterization of unconventional natural gas resources trapped in methane hydrate.  These activities are an important step along the trajectory towards possible production of methane from these widespread deposits in the future.” Completion of the HyPrCAL facility, modifications to the PCCTs, shipment of the NGHP-02 pressure cores, and construction and certification of the new pressure core storage and shipping chambers have been funded in part through an interagency agreement between the USGS and the Department of Energy’s Methane Hydrates Research and Development.  The USGS Gas Hydrates Project is a leading international gas hydrates research program focused on energy resource, environmental, and geohazard issues.  Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. #energy

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USGS Estimates 304 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas in the Bossier and Haynesville Formations of the U.S. Gulf Coast: This map shows the various assessment units of the 2017 USGS Bossier Formation Assessment.(Public domain.) The Bossier and Haynesville Formations of the onshore and State waters portion of the U.S. Gulf Coast contain estimated means of 4.0 billion barrels of oil, 304.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 1.9 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, according to updated assessments by the U.S. Geological Survey. These estimates, the largest continuous natural gas assessment USGS has yet conducted, include petroleum in both conventional and continuous accumulations, and consist of undiscovered, technically recoverable resources. The Bossier and Haynesville Formations lie within the Gulf Coast Basin, which extends from the Texas-Mexico border in the west to the Florida Panhandle in the east. The Bossier Formation is estimated to contain means of 2.9 billion barrels of oil, 108.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 1.0 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, while the Haynesville Formation is estimated to contain a mean of 1.1 billion barrels of oil, 195.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 0.9 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. “As the USGS revisits many of the oil and gas basins of the United States, we continually find that technological revolutions of the past few years have truly been a game-changer in the amount of resources that are now technically recoverable," said Walter Guidroz, Program Coordinator of the USGS Energy Resources Program. "Changes in technology and industry practices, combined with an increased understanding of the regional geologic framework, can have a significant effect on what resources become technically recoverable. These changes are why the USGS remains committed to performing the most up-to-date assessments of these vital resources throughout the United States and the world.” This map shows the various assessment units of the 2017 USGS Haynesville Formation Assessment.(Public domain.) Prior to this report, the USGS assessed the Bossier and Haynesville Formations in a 2010 assessment of Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks of the Gulf Coast. At that time, the Bossier was estimated to contain a mean of 9.0 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, while the Haynesville was estimated to contain 61.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. “It’s amazing what a little more knowledge can yield,” said USGS scientist Stan Paxton, lead author of the assessment. “Since the 2010 assessment, we’ve gotten updated geologic maps, expanded production history and have a greater understanding of how these reservoirs evolved. All of that leads to a better geological model and therefore a more robust assessment.” The Bossier and Haynesville Formations have long been known to contain oil and gas, but it wasn’t until 2008 that production of the continuous resources really got underway in East Texas and North Louisiana, the primary production areas for the two formations. USGS scientists drilling a research core near Waco, Texas. This core was drilled by USGS during field work for an oil and gas assessment for the Eagle Ford of the Gulf Coast Basins. Cores like these provide information on the various rock layers, such as their make-up, their age, etc.The USGS assesses undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources for the onshore United States and state territorial waters. Learn more about our Gulf Coast energy research here. (Credit: Stan Paxton, USGS. Public domain.) Continuous oil and gas is dispersed throughout a geologic formation rather than existing as discrete, localized occurrences, such as those in conventional accumulations. Because of that, continuous resources commonly require special technical drilling and recovery methods, such as hydraulic fracturing. USGS assessments are probabilistic and statistic assessments, yielding a range of possible resource amounts. For the Bossier Formation, the assessment ranges from 37.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to 223.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, with 108.6 trillion cubic feet as the mean. For oil, the assessment ranges from 1.2 billion barrels of oil to 5.1 billion barrels of oil, with 2.9 billion barrels as the mean. For natural gas liquids, the assessment ranges from 424 million barrels to 2.0 billion barrels, with 1.0 billion barrels as the mean. The Haynesville Formation, meanwhile, ranges from 96.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to 341 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, with 195.8 trillion cubic feet as the mean. For oil, the assessment ranges from 286 million barrels of oil to 2.5 billion barrels of oil, with 1.1 billion barrels as the mean. For natural gas liquids, the assessment ranges from 304 million barrels to 1.7 billion barrels, with 0.9 billion barrels as the mean. A drill core from near Waco, Texas. This core was drilled by USGS during field work for an oil and gas assessment for the Eagle Ford of the Gulf Coast Basins. Cores like these provide information on the various rock layers, such as their make-up, their age, etc.The USGS assesses undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources for the onshore United States and state territorial waters. Learn more about our Gulf Coast energy research here.  (Credit: Stan Paxton, USGS. Public domain.) Undiscovered resources are those that are estimated to exist based on geologic knowledge and statistical analysis of known resources, while technically recoverable resources are those that can be produced using currently available technology and industry practices. Whether or not it is profitable to produce these resources has not been evaluated. The USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of onshore lands and offshore state waters. The USGS assessments of the Bossier and Haynesville Formations were undertaken as part of a nationwide project assessing domestic petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol. The new assessments of the Bossier and Haynesville Formations may be found online. To find out more about USGS energy assessments and other energy research, please visit the USGS Energy Resources Program website, sign up for our Newsletter, and follow us on Twitter. #energy

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Study Evaluates Critical Mineral-Resource Potential in Alaska: USGS researchers collecting a soil sample for rare earth elements at the Roy Creek prospect, Alaska(Credit: Susan Karl, USGS. Public domain.) A new method for evaluating the resource potential for large, underexplored regions for critical minerals in Alaska is now available online. Critical minerals are used in products that are vital to national security, technology, and also play an integral role in our everyday modern life. The U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys developed the new geospatial tool that integrates and analyzes publicly available databases of geologic information and estimates the mineral-resource potential for critical minerals. The results of these analyses will focus scientific investigations, inform land management decisions, and guide future mineral exploration. A new fact sheet is available that summarizes the results from application of this geospatial tool, analyzing and mapping the resource potential in Alaska for critical minerals associated with six deposit groups. The groups include rare earth elements in alkaline granitic rocks, gold and other critical commodities in placer deposits, platinum group elements in volcanic and intrusive rocks, copper-cobalt-silver-germanium-gallium in carbonate rocks, uranium in sandstones and tin-tungsten-molybdenum-tantalum-indium in siliceous granitic rocks. “This new data-driven geospatial approach provides an objective and quantitative tool for analysis of mineral resource potential,” said Susan Karl, with the USGS and lead author of the study. “Some of the areas that showed high potential were already known, but many of these areas had not previously been recognized. Areas identified by this method that have high resource potential based on limited data indicate both understudied and underexplored areas that are important targets for future data collection, research investigations and exploration.” Estimated mineral-resource potential and levels of certainty, indicated by shading of colors, for tin, tungsten, molybdenum, tantalum, indium, and fluorspar in specialized granites(Credit: Keith Labay, USGS. Public domain.) Alaska consists of more than 663,000 square miles of land—more than a sixth of the total area of the United States—and this new method provides a valuable template to evaluate large unexplored regions for mineral resource potential. “This study will help guide our minerals-focused geologic investigations for many years to come. We have so much left to learn about the basic geologic framework of Alaska, and now we have a great new geospatial tool to help make our research efforts more efficient and effective,” said Jamey Jones, a USGS Research Geologist and co-author of the study. Graph of minerals that have been found, or are suspected to be present, in Alaska. Net import reliance (imports minus exports) is expressed as a percentage of domestic consumption. Although gold and molybdenum are net exported minerals, they are important to the economies of the United States and Alaska.(Credit: Graham Lederer, USGS. Public domain.) Estimated mineral-resource potential and levels of certainty, indicated by shading of colors, for rare earth elements, thorium, yttrium, niobium, uranium, and zirconium in alkaline igneous rocks.(Credit: Keith Labay, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.) #energy

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Forecasting the World’s Energy Resources: No one can predict the future, but given enough statistical information, an approximate world-energy model can be designed. Modeling the future of global oil and gas supply and demand is the province of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Office of Energy Analysis. The supply side of the petroleum industry is a focus for Troy Cook, a member of the EIA’s Upstream Production and Analysis Team. Team members collect information on the costs and size of petroleum developments. The team considers production fields, development projects that are underway but not yet producing, and undiscovered and yet-to-be-found petroleum. “That’s where [the] U.S. Geological Survey comes in,” said Cook. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assesses the quantity, quality, and distribution of undiscovered oil and gas resources in the United States and around the world. “The USGS resource assessments are an important source of information to us because they’re geologically based and quantified using proven and published methods,” continued Cook. According to Cook, understanding undiscovered resources is one of the most difficult and important pieces of the puzzle. Without this, EIA domestic and international supply and demand models would lack the critical elements necessary to create the most accurate supply-based model. “The goal is to be able to reasonably portray what the global energy industry would look like 25, even 30 years into the future,” Cook said. “Basically, we want to be able to answer questions like, ‘What might the price of liquefied natural gas in Japan be in 2031?’” The EIA’s current model, the Global Hydrocarbon Supply Model, or GHySMo, has been under development while petroleum engineers like Cook gather data from dozens of different sources. “The recent USGS international-based publications and data have been extremely useful,” said Cook. “In 2012, [the] USGS released its global conventional oil and gas assessment and in 2013, all of the supporting data. These two publications have extensive applications to supply-based modeling at the global level.” Part of the effort is keeping up with new industry methods and standards. As new technologies are introduced, “unconventional” oil and natural gas resources that were previously unobtainable become producible. For example, as the widespread adoption of hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling sparked the shale gas and shale oil booms, the USGS began issuing assessments that reflected what became recoverable. The EIA welcomed the new estimates and added them to their models. Whether it’s abroad or in the United States, the USGS oil and gas assessments, both conventional and unconventional, continue to provide energy-information professionals like Cook with science-based, publicly available sources of information about the world’s petroleum. “As GHySMo development continues, each new assessment by the USGS adds to the EIA modelers’ understanding of resource potential,” said Cook. “Each one helps round-out the estimates of resources we use in our models for the global supply of petroleum.” Top left: A map showing the Mancos Shale and the USGS assessment units within the formation. Top right: USGS scientist Sarah Hawkins, lead scientist for the Mancos Shale assessment, examines a core drilled by the USGS Core Research Center. This core provided valuable data for the assessment. Photograph credit: Joshua Hicks, USGS. Bottom: The USGS Core Research Center collaborated with the USGS Energy Resources Program to drill a core from the Mancos Shale to aid in the oil and gas assessment. Photograph credit: Joshua Hicks, USGS. Read more stories about USGS science in action. #energy

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Gas Hydrate Breakdown Unlikely to Cause Massive Greenhouse Gas Release: The breakdown of methane hydrates due to warming climate is unlikely to lead to massive amounts of methane being released to the atmosphere, according to a recent interpretive review of scientific literature performed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Rochester. Methane hydrate, which is also referred to as gas hydrate, is a naturally-occurring, ice-like form of methane and water that is stable within a narrow range of pressure and temperature conditions.  These conditions are mostly found in undersea sediments at water depths greater than 1000 to 1650 ft and in and beneath permafrost (permanently frozen ground) at high latitudes. Methane hydrates are distinct from conventional natural gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane reservoirs and are not currently exploited for energy production, either in the United States or the rest of the world.   On a global scale, gas hydrate deposits store enormous amounts of methane at relatively shallow depths, making them particularly susceptible to the changes in temperature that accompany climate change.  Methane itself is also a potent greenhouse gas, and some researchers have suggested that methane released by the breakdown of gas hydrate during past climate events may have exacerbated global warming. Summary of the locations where gas hydrate occurs beneath the seafloor, in permafrost areas, and beneath some ice sheets, along with the processes (shown in red) that destroy methane (sinks) in the sediments, ocean, and atmosphere.  The differently colored circles denote different sources of methane.  Gas hydrates are likely breaking down now on shallow continental shelves in the Arctic Ocean and at the feather edge of gas hydrate stability on continental margins (1000-1650 feet). Credit: Ruppel and Kessler (2017).(Public domain.) The new review concludes that current warming of ocean waters is likely causing gas hydrate deposits to break down at some locations. However, not only are the annual emissions of methane to the ocean from degrading gas hydrates far smaller than greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere from human activities, but most of the methane released by gas hydrates never reaches the atmosphere. Instead, the methane often remains in the undersea sediments, dissolves in the ocean, or is converted to carbon dioxide by microbes in the sediments or water column.   The review pays particular attention to gas hydrates beneath the Arctic Ocean, where some studies have observed elevated rates of methane transfer between the ocean and the atmosphere.  As noted by the authors, the methane being emitted to the atmosphere in the Arctic Ocean has not been directly traced to the breakdown of gas hydrate in response to recent climate change, nor as a consequence of longer-term warming since the end of the last Ice Age.  “Our review is the culmination of nearly a decade of original research by the USGS, my coauthor Professor John Kessler at the University of Rochester, and many other groups in the community,” said USGS geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel, who is the paper’s lead author and oversees the USGS Gas Hydrates Project. “After so many years spent determining where gas hydrates are breaking down and measuring methane flux at the sea-air interface, we suggest that conclusive evidence for release of hydrate-related methane to the atmosphere is lacking.”   Gas hydrate (white, ice-like material) under authigenic carbonate rock that is encrusted with deep-sea chemosynthetic mussels and other organisms on the seafloor of the northern Gulf of Mexico at 966 m (~3170 ft) water depth.  Although gas hydrate that forms on the seafloor is not an important component of the global gas hydrate inventory, deposits such as these demonstrate that methane and other gases cross the seafloor and enter the ocean.  Photograph was taken by the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle in April 2014 and is courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Ocean Exploration and Research Program.(Public domain.) Professor Kessler explains that, “Even where we do see slightly elevated emissions of methane at the sea-air interface, our research shows that this methane is rarely attributable to gas hydrate degradation.” The review summarizes how much gas hydrate exists and where it occurs; identifies the technical challenges associated with determining whether atmospheric methane originates with gas hydrate breakdown; and examines the assumptions of the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change, which have typically attributed a small amount of annual atmospheric methane emissions to gas hydrate sources. The review also systematically evaluates different environments to assess the susceptibility of gas hydrates at each location to warming climate and addresses the potential environmental impact of an accidental gas release associated with a hypothetical well producing methane from gas hydrate deposits. A sample of gas hydrate from the Mallik Test Well in Canada. Credit: USGS.(Public domain.) Virginia Burkett, USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change, noted, “This review paper provides a truly comprehensive synthesis of the knowledge on the interaction of gas hydrates and climate during the contemporary period.  The authors’ sober, data-driven analyses and conclusions challenge the popular perception that warming climate will lead to a catastrophic release of methane to the atmosphere as a result of gas hydrate breakdown.”  The paper, “The Interaction of Climate Change and Methane Hydrates, by C. Ruppel and J. Kessler, is published in Reviews of Geophysics and is available here.   The USGS and University of Rochester research that contributed to the review was largely supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.  More information about the University of Rochester’s Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences is available here. A sample of gas hydrate from sediments under the Indian Ocean. Credit: USGS.(Public domain.) The USGS Gas Hydrates Project has been advancing understanding of U.S. and international gas hydrates science for over two decades. The Project focuses on natural gas hydrates and their potential as an energy resource, interaction with the climate system, and possible association with geohazards such as submarine landslides.  In the last decade, the group has participated in energy resource studies on the Alaskan North Slope and in the Gulf of Mexico, Indian Ocean, and other locations.  Studies of climate-hydrate interactions have been carried out in the Beaufort Sea, on the U.S. Atlantic margin, and at international sites. #energy
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