June 11, 2010. Retrieved online June 15, 2010 from Gabriel Vasquez, Las Cruces Bulletin
Domestic energy exploration crucial to national security
Former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici vehemently expressed it months before retiring from the Senate – oil and gas must be the cornerstone of the bridge toward energy independence.
Other political and industry leaders have subscribed to the same doctrine, saying that domestic sources of both onshore and offshore oil must be further explored and developed to lower the nation’s dependency on foreign oil.
During a panel session held June 4 at the Re-Energize America conference, industry experts said much the same.
“People in the oil and gas industry know the most where the technological gaps lie and know where there’s a lack of education and understanding, and so they can better make a decision on how to best get from one point to another,” said James Pappas, vice president of technical programs for the Research Partnership to Secure Energy For America, speaking about the “bridge” to energy independence.
Currently, the United States imports about 60 percent of its petroleum from foreign sources, about 13 percent of which is coming Persian Gulf countries, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Pappas talked about Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act, signed into law in 2005, that supports oil and gas research and development.
Section 999 essentially created the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Program, a public-private partnership designed to increase America’s domestic oil and gas supply. A portion of the funding is directed toward cost shared research partnerships while another portion is used for Department of Energy research efforts.
“The members of (the program) are all over the country, and the Land of Enchantment has more than its fair share of participants,” Pappas said.
The initiative is necessary because of a steep decline in research funding for domestic oil and natural gas exploration at a time when it has become the most critical, Pappas said.
“If you’re in oil and gas, the unconventional resources right now are a really hot topic,” he said. “This is where shale gas comes in, which is what (New Mexico) has. There are a huge number of opportunities but we’re limited on funds.”
Pappas’ research partnership helps break down every step in the function of research and development – from scouting to drilling and eventually beginning a commercial operation, he said.
In order to have the least environmental impact, at least in the area of shale hydraulic fracturing, plans are being developed for a conceptual drilling design for semi-arid ecosystems that has a low-impact logistical support that leaves a very “small footprint” per drilling rig, uses “disappearing” roads and causes minimum disturbance to the surrounding environment.
He said the technological challenges for small producers in the state is that they would probably need to leverage existing infrastructure instead of developing or buying brand new equipment, a problem Section 999 seeks to solve.
The Department of Energy will contribute $356.2 million over 10 years to the Section 999 program while matching funds from industry will be at least $87.6 million, based on a minimum 20 percent share of research and development efforts. Of those funds, 35 percent will be dedicated to projects to explore ultra-deepwater resources, 32 percent will go to unconventional natural gas and other petroleum resources, 7.5 percent will go toward solvingthe technological challenges of such exploration for small producers and 25 percent will be for fundamental research complementary to these areas.
Pappas said he sees the program as vital – a necessary step to achieving American energy independence.
Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article.