Unconventional Production Technology and Environmental Consortium (UpTec)

 
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Texas Tech University’s Unconventional Production Technology and Environmental Consortium (UpTec) is a multidisciplinary, collaborative research cluster composed of more than 50 researchers from 14 departments, as well as the School of Law, in cooperation with other researchers across Texas and the U.S. UpTec is divided into several sub-groups reflecting the different group themes:

  • Chemistry, Materials & Technological Development
  • Water and Environmental Consequences and their Minimization
  • Public Engagement & Education
  • Subsurface Processes & Technologies

Hydraulic fracturing has revolutionized oil and gas production in the United States and has the potential to sustain conventional energy resources at low cost throughout the 21st century. It has completely changed expectations for power generation, bulk chemical processing and the use of natural gas in these sectors as well as a transportation fuel and as an export commodity. To meet the promise of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas production, however, there are significant challenges that extend beyond the traditional interests of the industry. The variety of natural environments where these oil and gas resources exist place new demands on the materials and technology of hydraulic fracturing and lead to new and poorly understood concerns for environmental damage. Of particular concern are the implications of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on water availability and quality, especially in the face of the drought faced by much of the western United States in recent years. Finally, the rapid growth in oil and gas development, particularly in areas with relatively low prior activity, and the potential for negative environmental consequences, has led to public concern. This calls for both research into these issues as well as extensive engagement and education efforts to aid effective public participation in shaping the policy and practice of hydraulic fracturing. It is toward these goals that UpTec is directed. Specific thrusts include:

  • Development of an industry consortium focused on financially supporting UpTec’s research into the scientific issues identified above, recognizing that many of the issues are common to the entire industry and represent issues that universities have both interest and expertise.
  • Organization of the research within UpTec to take advantage of the expertise within member universities, including Texas Tech University, The University of Texas and Texas A&M, as well as other key institutions around the U.S. The group must address issues that best reflect the expertise of the group as well as the regional nature of the environmental setting and potential consequences of the application of the technology while recognizing the broader implications. The group has been commissioned to employ science to answer critical questions facing the industry and effectively communicate these answers to the public.
  • Answers to these questions are more critical as OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and other interests become highly motivated to support and fund initiatives that may affect the viability of the oil and gas industry within the United States.

Some specific project initiatives by the group include:

  • An inventory of brackish groundwater resources (location, productivity and chemistry) that could be used as an alternative water resource for hydraulic fracturing
  • Fundamental developments in brackish water chemistry and their prediction to support alternative water sourcing and produced and flowback water treatment and reuse
  • Treatment technologies to optimize use-specific water reuse
  • Defining water resource quality baseline to better identify water quality impacts
  • Casing design and cementing to enhance well integrity
  • Educational programs and technical conferences to enhance the oil and gas work force
  • Public communication and outreach programs to aid effective public participation

The vision of UpTec is to become a global leader in hydraulic fracturing research by developing sustainable practices for hydraulic fracturing technologies, examining public understanding and media coverage of hydraulic fracturing, designing and implementing effective hydraulic fracturing communication and education efforts, and exploring the human and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing within the water-scarce region of West Texas.

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If you are interested in the Unconventional Production Technology and Environmental Consortium, please contact the OVPR Research Development Team at rdt.vpr@ttu.edu.