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Study to Explore More Productive and Environmentally Sound Drilling Methods


WASHINGTON, D.C., AUGUST 22, 2001 -- U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today reported that the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology has been awarded a $750,000 grant by the Department of Energy to evaluate ways to boost the productivity of oil exploration and production operations on Alaska’s North Slope in a more environmentally sound manner.

Domenici said the grant to the New Mexico Petroleum Recovery Research Center at New Mexico Tech will fund a study on how synthetic-oil-based muds change the properties of rock cores extracted from Arctic reservoirs. The university will contribute another $360,400 to the three-year project.

“I am pleased New Mexico Tech will have a hand in developing and testing advanced technologies to improve oil production in the extreme climatic conditions, remote locations, and heightened environmental sensitivity of the Arctic,” Domenici said. “This is important work with the goal of making our oil production more efficient and environmentally responsible.”

On the North Slope, drillers must use specially formulated synthetic-oil-based muds, rather than water-based muds, both for environmental reasons and to function properly in the Arctic climate. The synthetic muds, however, can change the properties of the core samples which geologists extract and analyze to determine the best way to extract oil from the reservoir. The study at New Mexico Tech will explore ways to restore the original properties of the reservoir rock cores or to develop synthetic muds that do not have detrimental effects on the cores.

Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, also serves as ranking member of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee that sets funding levels for the Department of Energy.