Drilling began last week for the first shale samples to be analysed by the SD School of Mines in a range of advanced laboratory tests that could ultimately lead to enhanced energy production, carbon dioxide sequestration, underground hydrocarbon storage and waste disposal.
The SD School of Mines, located in western South Dakota, is equidistant from the Bakken, Mowry and Niobrara shale plays in the upper Midwest. The shale program is part of the university’s Energy Resources Initiative, which includes a new minor in Petroleum Systems and expanded research.
The drilling in Fort Pierre is expected to be completed this week. Scientists and engineers will analyse what could be more than 3,000 pounds of shale samples in various laboratories throughout the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology campus and its partner RESPEC, a national engineering consulting company based in Rapid City.
It is the first of two shale core drillings that will be conducted this summer.
Drilling in Fort Pierre is being conducted by a private company at the direction of William Roggenthen, Ph.D., Mines research scientist, and Lance Roberts, Ph.D., head of the Department of Mining Engineering & Management. A number of faculty and student researchers have been on site preparing samples for laboratory examination as shale cores have been removed from the ground at 5-foot intervals to an expected total depth of 600 feet.
The Shale Research Initiative was formally announced in April after the state of South Dakota approved $464,000 for the research program. The university and RESPEC have been partnering on the project since 2012, when the Department of Energy and Sandia National Laboratory funded an initial $150,000 for a preliminary examination.
Ultimately, research findings will be applicable for multiple industries where understanding the characteristics and behaviour of shale and other fine-grained geological units is critical. Additionally, initial work includes geo-mechanical analyses to assess the feasibility of what would be the nation’s first underground shale research laboratory.
Developing a database of shale properties could have potential economic impacts and result in a portfolio of knowledge gaps that warrant further study by industry and government collaborators.
For example, time-dependent properties of shale, also known as creep, are relatively unknown. Creep is the process wherein a material deforms over time when subjected to a sustained load. Understanding and quantifying this process has applications within oil and gas production from shale, including hydraulic fracturing; underground storage of hydrocarbons in mined shale caverns; used fuel disposition and waste disposal in shale; and carbon dioxide sequestration.
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