by George Zamora
SOCORRO, N.M., May 10, 2006 – The U.S. Department of Energy has announced the selection of a New Mexico Tech-led consortium to receive a ten-year contract to administer a nearly $500 million research program designed to develop technologies to make extraction of ultra-deepwater oil and gas resources, as well as unconventional onshore gas resources, economically viable.
The state-funded research university in Socorro is one of the founding members of the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), a non-profit corporation formed four years ago by a consortium of U.S. research universities, energy service companies, and independent research organizations.
In addition, New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. López serves as chairman of the RPSEA Board of Directors.
With possible matching funding from the oil and gas industry and other private sources, RPSEA could eventually manage a research and development program that approaches $1.5 billion in directed, appropriated, and matching spending.
New Mexico Tech, the state’s premier institution in petroleum engineering education and research, is now an integral part of a nationwide collaborative research management effort to secure cutting-edge fossil energy development for our country. The national research consortium was formed largely in response to President Bush’s longstanding directive to reduce America’s dependence on foreign sources of oil.
RPSEA was established with the expressed mission of “competing for stewardship of federal and matching industry funds to compete the necessary research and development that results in reduced risk, reduced cost, and reduced time to recover additional hydrocarbons in America.”
When the U.S. Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, RPSEA was already uniquely poised by virtue of its collective expertise and capabilities to begin administering some of the federal legislation’s research initiatives, particularly those targeting the areas of deep and ultra-deep offshore drilling of oil and gas reservoirs and unconventional onshore natural gas resources.
“All of us at New Mexico Tech are, of course, very pleased to be involved with this monumental collaboration to secure a more cost-efficient, reliable, and clean energy future for our country,” Tech President and RPSEA Chairman López said.
The research initiative that RPSEA will manage was established through a royalty trust fund created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, in which money for the fund comes directly from federal oil and gas royalties paid for production on U.S. government lands.
“This comprehensive energy legislation that was passed last year was largely due to the efforts of New Mexico’s own U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, along with the strong support of our other U.S. Senator, Jeff Bingaman,” López pointed out.
As a concerted effort among its academic, government, and corporate members, RPSEA will oversee a massive research and development program which will incorporate the latest enabling technologies and methodologies for increasing domestic oil and gas production from ultra-deepwater resources, such as those found in the Gulf of Mexico, and from unconventional resources, such as tight sands, oil shale, and coal-bed methane found throughout the Western United States, including New Mexico’s San Juan Basin.
DOE funding for research programs will be made available through RPSE and will be administered on a competitive, peer-reviewed basis, similar to guidelines used by other government research entities, such as the National Science Foundation.
“As the leading producer of petroleum engineers and petroleum technology in this state, and through its association with RPSEA, New Mexico Tech is uniquely positioned to directly impact the quality of education and research in this area of vital economic importance to our nation,” López said.
“As a member of RPSEA, New Mexico Tech will be fully apprised of the most technologically sophisticated developments and advances in oil and natural gas recovery,” López continued. “Furthermore, we will be directly involved in defining specific areas of research to secure our nation’s energy future.”
Under the provisions of last year’s federal energy bill, New Mexico Tech’s direct involvement with RPSEA does not preclude the research university — with its wealth of expertise and resources in oil and gas technology — from applying to the consortium for competitive-based funding for its own university based research programs.
“The new technology for exploring and garnering unconventional gas resources which will result from New Mexico Tech’s efforts alone will mean cleaner and more reliable sources of energy available at a lower cost for all Americans,” the New Mexico Tech President added. “With the concerted efforts of RPSEA, a broad range of new explorations will be made possible, helping move our nation away from our heavy dependence on imported fossil fuels, which are sometimes tenuously obtained from unstable sources.”