The Utah energy office will give five fossil-fuel research projects $500,000 to share in their studies on ways to enhance energy production.
The projects will range from studying how underground gas and oil reservoirs branch out, to ways to drill horizontal wells into coal mine seams to extract high-quality methane gases.All but one of the projects must pay back the financing.
Utah energy engineer Thomas Turner said Monday his office received the funding from the federal government, which in turn received it from oil companies that overcharged the public between 1973 and 1981.
The five projects were selected from 37 applicants.
"Usually we ask for a small royalty of two or three times the amount we awarded the projects," Turner said of the payback method. "If a project is unsuccessful, we don't expect a payback. If they are successful, we expect a payback when they are able to do so."
The only project getting financing that does not have to pay the money back is the Utah Geological and Mineral Survey. It received more than $53,000 to study horizontal drilling methods for gas and oil wells.
That study will be conducted in the Duchesne oil fields in southeastern Utah and will be combined with some $268,000 of in-kind contributions and private donations.
Also receiving funding: University of Utah Research Institute, to develop imaging techniques to study underground branching of oil and gas reservoirs, $100,000; Resource Enterprises Inc., $149,000 to study methane extraction from coal mines; University of Utah departments of fuels and mining engineering, to study catalytic combustion of poor-quality methane gas to generate electricity for coal mines, $69,000; and James W. Bunger and Associates, $138,000 to study byproducts from tar sand and shale oil production.