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Core Sample Research in South Dakota Could Lead to First Underground Shale Lab

Drilling recently began South Dakota for the first shale core samples that will be analyzed using an extensive range of advanced lab tests. Ultimately, those samples could result in enhanced energy production, underground hydrocarbon storage, carbon dioxide sequestration, and waste disposal. Scientists and engineers will be analyzing approximately 3,000 pounds of samples. Drilling, which began near Fort Pierre, is being supervised by a private company. Numerous researchers from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have been called in to prepare the samples for examination.

Known as the Shale Research Initiative, the project was announced in April following the approval of more than $460,000 from the state of South Dakota to fund the program. The development of a shale database will prove to be vitally important moving forward and could offer tremendous economic impact by providing valuable knowledge regarding the various properties of shale.

The Fort Pierre Shale, which encompasses a significant swathe of the Great Plains, may prove to be quite valuable in terms of helping researchers learn more about shale and how it behaves. Researchers studying these core samples will be particularly interested in learning more about the time-dependent properties related to shale, often referred to as creep. Such information remains relatively unstudied to state and researchers are anxious to learn more. Creep is the process by which a material loses its form over time when it is subjected to sustained loads. Greater understanding of this process is applicable to the oil and gas research field in terms of hydraulic fracturing as well as waste disposal, underground hydrocarbon storage, and carbon dioxide sequestration.

Along with encompassing a large section of South Dakota, the Pierre Shale formation also extends through portions of North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas.

As part of the studies currently being conducted on the core samples collected from the Pierre shale formation, researchers will also be using computer models to determine whether it would be feasible to construct what has the potential to be the first underground shale research lab in the United States. To date, there have been estimations regarding when the laboratory might be constructed or the cost for the construction of such a lab. While research into the project is still very much within the early stages, it already has significant ramifications for the oil and gas industry. If the lab is constructed, it could provide a wealth of information to the oil and gas industry as a whole as well as many other industries.

With the oil and gas boom continuing throughout much of the U.S., core samples remain a vital element of oil and gas research. By providing oil and gas companies with vital information about the presence of hydrocarbons as well as the way in which certain types of rock formations may respond to oil and gas exploration techniques, it is possible to benefit from greater cost efficiency and more effective exploration and drilling techniques.