[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 177 (Tuesday, September 13, 2011)]
[Pages 56412-56413]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-23328]



Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other 
Petroleum Resources Research and Development Program 2011 Annual Plan

AGENCY: Office of Fossil Energy, Department of Energy.

ACTION: Notice of report availability.


SUMMARY: The Office of Fossil Energy announces the availability of the 
2011 Annual Plan for the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas 
and Other Petroleum Resources Research and Development Program on the 
DOE Web site at http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/oilgas/ultra_and_unconventional/2011-2012_Committees/2011_annual_plan.pdf or in 
print form (see ``Contact'' below). The 2011 Annual Plan is in 
compliance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Subtitle J, Section 
999B(e)(3) which requires the publication of this plan and all written 
comments in the Federal Register.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elena Melchert, U.S. Department of 
Energy, Office of Oil and Natural Gas, Mail Stop FE-30, 1000 
Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20585 or phone: (202) 586-5600 
or e-mail to [email protected].


Executive Summary [Excerpted From the 2011 Annual Plan p. iii]

    As the Nation transitions to the clean energy economy of the 
future, we must also ensure that we effectively mitigate the risks of 
our current energy portfolio.
    This 2011 Annual Plan, the fifth such plan to be produced since the 
launch of the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other 
Petroleum Resources Research Program, reflects an important shift in 
priorities towards safety and environmental sustainability. This shift 
is based on the recognition that a critical element in prudently 
developing our domestic resource base is a scientific assessment of the 
risks which exploration and production activities entail, and the 
development of appropriate technologies and processes to mitigate these 
    Domestic deepwater and ultra-deepwater oil and gas resources, and 
domestic unconventional natural gas resources, are important 
contributors to our Nation's energy supply portfolio. Recent events, 
the Macondo well blowout and the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the 
Gulf of Mexico, and growing public opposition to the rapid pace of 
shale gas development onshore are stark reminders of the environmental 
risks of our current energy portfolio. The 2011 Annual Plan proposes 
scientific research that will quantify and mitigate risks associated 
with oil and gas exploration and production onshore and offshore, 
thereby improving safety and minimizing environmental impacts.
    The Department will ensure that the federal government's 
understanding of the risks associated with these operations keeps pace. 
This will be accomplished through scientific assessment of the risks, 
potential impacts, and adequacy of current response and mitigation 
    The research discussed in this Annual Report will be administered 
by the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), which 
operates under the guidance of the Secretary of Energy. RPSEA is a 
consortium which includes representatives from industry, academia and 
research institutions. RPSEA's expertise in all areas of the 
exploration and production value chain ensure that the Department of 
Energy's research program has access to relevant emerging technologies 
and processes, and that projects are designed in a way that have a 
direct impact on practices in the field.


    Offshore and onshore research activities are administered pursuant 
to an annual plan in compliance with Title IX, Subtitle J of EPACT, 
which directs that $50 million per year of federal royalties, rents and 
bonus payments be used to fund an oil and natural gas research and 
development (R&D) effort, the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional 
Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research Program (Program).
    The Secretary of Energy approves all awards to research performers, 
and the planned R&D activities support the goals and objectives of the 
annual plan. The research activities are administered by a Program 
Consortium that has been selected by the Secretary, as detailed in the 
Program Consortium section below.
    The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is responsible for 
implementation of the Program. Within NETL, the responsibility for 
overall program implementation, including oversight of the Program 
Consortium contract, has been assigned to the Strategic Center for 
Natural Gas and Oil.
    Complementary research prescribed under Section 999A(d) is carried 
out by NETL's Office of Research and Development.

Program Consortium

    In 2006, DOE selected the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for 
America (RPSEA) through a competitive solicitation to serve as the 
Program Consortium and administer the research activities pursuant to 
Section 999B(c).
    RPSEA has a broad membership base that includes representatives 
from all levels and sectors of both the oil and natural gas exploration 
and production (E&P) and oil and natural gas R&D communities. The 
breadth of membership helps to ensure that R&D funds leverage existing 
industry efforts in accomplishing the Program's objectives.
    Administration funds provided to RPSEA cannot exceed 10 percent 
pursuant to Section 999G(3). The private companies, universities, and 
other organizations that are awarded contracts through this program 
provide cost-share contributions of at least 20 percent.

The Annual Plan Development Process

    Pursuant to Section 999B(e)(2)(A), the Program Consortium prepared 
its 2011 Draft Annual Plan (DAP) which it delivered to the Secretary 
July 2010. The Department of Energy prepared a Draft 2011 Annual Plan. 
Subsequently, the Draft 2011 Annual Plan and the DAP were reviewed by 
the Unconventional Resources Technology Advisory Committee (URTAC) 
which presented

[[Page 56413]]

its final report of findings and recommendations in October 2010.
    On February 2, 2011, the Secretary of Energy appointed new members 
to his Ultra-Deepwater Advisory Committee (UDAC), and met with the 
members on February 23, 2011 to discuss his goals for offshore research 
and development. Before presenting its final report of findings and 
recommendations to the Secretary in April 2011, the UDAC established a 
Subcommittee on Risk Assessment.
    The Department of Energy will be continually informed by the UDAC 
based on the work of its Subcommittee on Risk. In addition, other 
Federal advisory bodies will help inform the Department. These include 
the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) which established a 
Subcommittee on Natural Gas, and the Department of the Interior's Ocean 
Energy Safety Committee (OESC) which has established four subcommittees 
including the Spill Prevention Subcommittee, and the Containment 
Subcommittee. The Department of Energy is a member of the OESC. The 
Department will take new information into account in the preparation of 
solicitations and the selection of research projects for the 2011 

    Issued in Washington, DC, on September 7, 2011.
Christopher A. Smith,
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Oil and Natural Gas, Office of 
Fossil Energy.
[FR Doc. 2011-23328 Filed 9-12-11; 8:45 am]