SBIR Phase I: Development and testing of a dry fracture technique to reduce water use and increase life cycle yield in oil and gas extraction

Period of Performance: 07/01/2017 - 06/30/2018


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Highland Light Management Corp
20624 Highland Drive Array
Montgomery Village, MD 20886
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project will be to significantly increase recovery efficiency and decrease ecological footprint. The ecological footprint is decreased by reducing the amount of water required to produce oil and gas from many low permeability U.S. unconventional plays. Further, it will provide access to the vast reserves of potential oil and gas (estimated at greater than 2 trillion barrels) stored as immature organic material helping to enhance energy independence for the US. The new methods will enhance production of oil and gas from a controllable volume surrounding development wells. The proposed methods will replace the rapid declines in well productivity of fracked wells, and the accompanying typically less than 10% recovery of hydrocarbons in place, by a strategy which will construct multi-year oil and gas "factories" which will have continuous, predictable, twenty year production lifetimes. Increased recovery factors through increased efficiency will enhance the value of existing plays and provide a step-change in sustainable energy production while lowering environmental impact through reducing surface disruption and minimizing water use and disposal. This SBIR Phase I project proposes to develop the models necessary to simulate the Radio Frequency (RF) waterless stimulation process, and to provide laboratory and numerical data to support that model. A self-consistent model of the RF system and its downhole environment, is required to define the conditions for which RF stimulation makes economic sense, and to optimize system design for a given target play. Project objectives are to 1) demonstrate design of a RF system which mitigates the previous problems found with RF heating, 2) test in the laboratory the effects of RF heating on reservoir rock subject to realistic in situ conditions to understand the resultant crack field and accompanying permeability enhancement, including the impact of RF heating on immature kerogen, 3) model the resulting stress and fracture fields with sufficient fidelity to make predictions for oil and gas recovery, and 4) use this information to form a self consistent model of the process so that various shale plays can be evaluated. A commercial multiphysics numerical modeling approach will be used to simulate the physical processes that occur including feedback to account for temperature increases and the impacts of in situ stress and structural complexity.