WP 1. Management. This over-arching WP is led by UCL principal investigators, and supported by UCL European Research & Innovation Office. The key tasks include strategic, scientific, financial, legal and administrative management of the consortium and liaison with the European Commission (sponsor).
WP 2. Shale Core Acquisition and HTHP Handling Capabilities. The key task of WP 2 is to secure access to representative samples from EU shale formations. ShaleXenvironmenT will extract the shale samples, keep them at formation temperature (T), pressure (P), fluid composition (x), and test them varying T, P, and x. We will develop the capability of handling and testing samples at high T high P (HTHP) conditions. WP 2 is led by Halliburton.
WP 3. Advanced Imaging and Geomechanical Characterisation. The task of WP 3 is to provide ShaleXenvironmenT team members with detailed experimental information regarding the pore network (e.g., pore size, pore connectivity, chemical composition), the fluid behaviour (e.g., permeability, composition, partition), and the mechanical properties (e.g., static elastic moduli, ultrasonic velocity, brittle and ductile properties) of shale core samples obtained from WP 2. We will also study the mechanisms of fracture formation and propagation and the mechanisms of fluid transport. WP 3 is led by the University of Manchester.
WP 4. Modelling of Confined Fluids. The goal is to develop intuitive and possibly predictive capabilities for rationalizing the mechanisms by which fluids are transported within the shale cores, and how fluid-rock interactions develop. This understanding is required to predict the fate of substances with potential environmental impact (e.g., NORM, chemicals) in shale formations, the potential release as a function of time of adsorbed vs. free gas (which will impact the gaseous emissions from a well), and the lifetime productivity of a well (which will determine the well’s overall environmental impact). The research partners at UCL, the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, NCSR Demokritos and SUBATECH (ARMINES) will employ state-of-the-art theoretical and computational techniques to secure success. In addition to these partners, our collaborator Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ) will contribute significantly to this task. WP 4 uses information from WP 3 as an input, and, in turn, provides instrumental insights for WP 6, WP 7, WP 9 and WP 5.
WP 5. Formulation of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids. As any shale formation is unique, we cannot rely on existing formulations for fracturing the EU shale rocks. Our hypothesis is that by appropriately formulating the fracturing fluids it will be possible to reduce the amount of pollutants present in flow-back and production water. Partner CSGI will formulate different hydraulic fracturing fluids, ensuring that they manage to fracture the European shale rocks without compromising the recovery of hydrocarbons. In tandem with WP04 we will quantify how the fracturing fluids interact with natural gas. Of importance is to ensure that our formulations are REACH compliant.
WP 6. Analytical Models and Software. WP 6 employs the modelling information from WP 4 and the experimental characterization data from WP 3 to develop analytical models for fluid transport across large distances. Three scientists from Geomecon will be directly involved in this research to improve the software solutions. Validation will be conducted by comparing model predictions to experiments on engineered materials (WP 7) and by comparing the predictions to permeation experiments on large shale samples, some of which will be fractured (WP 3). Once the models for fluid transport at large length scales are available, they will be used to predict the productivity of a formation, the fate of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, etc.
WP 7. Engineered Materials. Materials from Jirij Cejka (HIPC) will be used to test whether our WP 6 analytical models and software are suitable to predict how far the fracturing fluids (WP 5) can transmit their high pressure within the shale formation. Coupling this prediction with a detailed understanding of the geology of the territory where one shale formation is located (in particular with the presence of natural faults, that of cap rock, and that of rocks with different intrinsic permeability) we will study the pressure dissipation within the entire formation. When we will apply the same understanding to quantify how the pressure field within a formation determines the transport of natural gas, water, and other substances through the formation, we will be able to predict the lifetime productivity of a well.
WP 8. Optimization. ShaleXenvironmenT will minimize the use of fresh water and optimize the reclamation of flow-back and produced water (e.g., via a combination of membrane distillation, forward osmosis, and other technologies). As recently observed, shale gas exploitation could be affected by water availability. To identify the best technology for water management, the University of Alicante will evaluate in which shale formations in Europe it will be desirable to re-use the flow-back water for fracturing purposes, in which ones reclamation will be preferable, and in which other alternatives should be considered. To avoid induced micro-seismicity, we will not consider injection in deep wells for handling waste water.
WP 9. Risk Assessment. Should large-scale shale gas production become a commercial reality in Europe, it is highly likely that the assessment of the risk and consequences associated with a wellhead blowout as well as with induced seismicity will become a statuary requirement. We will provide the framework for such assessment and we will evaluate policies and best practice procedures to safely produce shale gas in Europe. ShaleXenvironmenT secured the partnership of a leader in industrial safety assessment, Prof. Haroun Mahgerefteh of UCL, and members of the Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR), in addition to industrial experience from Geomecon.
WP 10. Life Cycle Assessment. Before bringing shale gas to fruition in Europe, and elsewhere, it is necessary to carefully take into consideration the entire lifespan of the technology. To do so, we will implement the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, one of the most developed and widely used environmental assessment tools for comparing alternative technologies. LCAs on the environmental footprint of shale gas have already appeared in the literature. However, the results are contradictory, and depend strongly on assumptions made concerning fugitive gas emissions. To resolve this discrepancy, we will conduct a LCA over 100 years, and we will utilize transport data collected and predicted specifically for the shale formations of interest to this project. The analysis will focus on global warming potential as an indicator of greenhouse effect; acidification potential; and fresh water aquatic eco-toxicity potential. WP 10 is led by UCL.
WP 11. Suggestions for Policy Formulation. The results from WP 9 and WP 10 will allow us to quantify the footprint of shale gas, after optimization (WP 8), and depending on the composition of both the fracturing fluids and of the flow-back and produced water (WP 5). Using this information, within WP 11 we will translate our scientific results into policy formulations. WP 11 is led by UCL, supported by the UCL Australia International Energy Policy Institute.
WP12. Dissemination. ShaleXenvironmenT is committed to the public dissemination and communication of our scientific results. WP 12 uses results from all WPs. Our presence in the open literature, in public, on the web, and at conferences will contribute to give ShaleXenvironmenT wide visibility, transparency and credibility, which we will use to secure a long-lasting positive effect on the environmentally-conscious deployment of shale gas worldwide. WP 12 is led by the National Center for Scientific Research ‘Demokritos’.