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Characterizing the Conditions of Marginal Oil and Gas Wells

The National Energy Technology Laboratory's (NETL's) record of success has been built on understanding the future of energy and the technologies required to make that future possible. We’ve long touted our success in developing the technologies that took on acid rain in the 1970s and mercury in the early 2000s. More recently, NETL has a leading role in President Biden’s ambitious climate goals, including a carbon emission-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050.

Program Goals

The NETL Faculty Research Program (FRP) offers qualified academic faculty an opportunity to collaborate with NETL principal investigators on research that is mutually beneficial to NETL and the selected applicant at state-of-the-art NETL facilities. While typical appointments are part-time, some appointments are offered on a full-time basis during the summer or as a sabbatical. Prior to the appointment, the NETL principal investigator and selected applicant will define the scope of research and schedule the appointment period. Appointment periods range from one month to more than one year. Funding varies and is awarded based upon the participant's institutional salary. Faculty members are expected to elevate the collaboration with NETL by supporting connections with students at their home institution, in addition to the research project.

Connecting Students with NETL

The collaboration between the selected faculty member and NETL will include connecting their academic institution and students with NETL. Student connections may be fostered through activities such as, but not limited to, the following:

  • Inviting NETL scientists and engineers to present at a departmental seminar
  • Joining NETL at institutional career/job fairs to discuss your experiences with NETL
  • Speaking about your experiences with NETL at information sessions
  • Sharing invitations to NETL information sessions with students
  • Partnering with NETL on proposals and other funding opportunities
  • Recommending opportunities to NETL scientists and engineers, such as serving as a reviewer or editor, leading a workshop, etc.
  • Serving as an ambassador to NETL for students interested in careers in the national lab complex

Research Project

Through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), this posting seeks a faculty collaborator to engage in projects with the Research Innovation Center (RIC) at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in the area of emissions reduction under the mentorship of Greg Lackey. This project will be hosted by the NETL Pittsburgh, PA campus.

Over 80% of oil and gas wells in the United States are marginally productive. It's estimated that, on average, these wells emit higher rates of methane than other wells. It is not feasible to accurately measure emissions from all marginal wells due to the number of wells that exist. This project is focused on leveraging publicly available information gathered by state oil and gas regulatory agencies as a proxy to estimate emissions from marginal wells in the United States.

The goals of this project are to: (1) learn and apply state-of-art methods and approaches for well characterization and integrity assessment and machine learning model development to address industry-relevant applied geoengineering problems; (2) gain perspective on emissions from the oil and gas sector, key challenges, and stakeholder perspectives; (3) gain exposure to career opportunities in energy and environmental science/engineering, with particular exposure to geologic and environmental -related fields; (4) gain experience in collaborative research with, interdisciplinary collaboration teams; and (5) improve technical writing and oral presentation skills. 

Peer-reviewed publication is strongly encouraged and will be supported by the mentor and other collaborators, as it an important step for emerging researchers to establish themselves and contribute to the advancement of the state-of-understanding in their field of endeavor. It is not, however, a requirement for this opportunity.

Stipend: The selected faculty participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with their institutional salary.

Deliverables: To document the effectiveness of the program, participants are required to submit a pre-appointment and post-appointment survey, as well as a reflection on their appointment experience when they renew or end their appointment. The reflection should summarize their project(s), additional activities, and overall experience. Details are provided as the appointment end date approaches.
Participants may also have the opportunity to contribute to manuscripts, journal articles, book chapters, conference presentations, posters, patents, and other publications as a part of their appointment. Such achievements should also be reported to ORISE; additional details are provided after an offer has been accepted.


The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory system, is owned and operated by the DOE. NETL supports the DOE mission to advance the energy security of the United States. This is an educational opportunity offered by NETL and administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. Participants in the program are not considered employees of NETL, DOE, the program administrator, or any other office or agency.



To be eligible, applicants must be a full-time regular permanent faculty member at an accredited college/university with a research interest in NETL core R&D areas.
Post-Master's and post-doctoral graduates interested in this area are invited to apply to the Postgraduate Research Program opportunity associated with this project:

The ideal candidate would have some, but not necessarily all, of the following skills:

  • Statistics and data analysis
  • Machine-learning methods and codes
  • Research code development
  • Team-based, interdisciplinary collaboration on complex research topics in the area of geologic and environmental systems.

It is recognized that not all applicants will have knowledge and experience in all of these areas. This opportunity will provide exposure to/interaction with technical experts in several of these areas.