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Subsurface Technology and Engineering Research and Development


Please Note that a Letter of Intent is due Tuesday, September 08, 2015 5:00pm ET


Program Area Overview


Office of Basic Energy Sciences

The Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) supports fundamental research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels in order to provide the foundations for new energy technologies and to support DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security.  The results of BESsupported research are routinely published in the open literature.

A key function of the program is to plan, construct, and operate premier scientific user facilities for the development of novel nanomaterials and for materials characterization through xray and neutron scattering; the former is accomplished through five Nanoscale Science Research Centers and the latter is accomplished through the world's largest suite of light source and neutron scattering facilities.  These national resources are available free of charge to all researchers based on the quality and importance of proposed nonproprietary experiments.

A major objective of the BES program is to promote the transfer of the results of our basic research to advance and create technologies important to Department of Energy (DOE) missions in areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy resources, improved use of fossil fuels, the mitigation of the adverse impacts of energy production and use, and future nuclear energy sources.  The following set of technical topics represents one important mechanism by which the BES program augments its system of university and laboratory research programs and integrates basic science, applied research, and development activities within the DOE.

For additional information regarding the Office of Basic Energy Sciences priorities, click here. 

TOPIC 13:  Subsurface Technology and Engineering Research and Development


Maximum Phase I Award Amount:  $150,000

Maximum Phase II Award Amount:  $1,000,000

Accepting SBIR Phase I Applications:  YES

Accepting SBIR FastTrack Applications:  NO

Accepting STTR Phase I Applications:  YES

Accepting STTR FastTrack Applications:  NO


The Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), in support of the DOE Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy’s Subsurface Technology and Engineering Research, Development and Demonstration (SubTER) Crosscut Initiative, seeks to advance the state of the art in adaptive control or “mastery” of the subsurface for energy production and storage and for the management of energy waste streams. 

While subsurface sources constitute the Nation’s primary source of energy (providing more than 80 percent of total U.S. energy needs today), they are also critical to the Nation’s lowcarbon and secure energy future. Next generation advances in subsurface technologies will enable access to more than 100 gigawattelectric (GWe) of clean, renewable geothermal energy, as well as safer development of domestic natural gas supplies. The subsurface provides hundreds of years of safe storage capacity for carbon dioxide (CO2) and opportunities for environmentally responsible management and disposal of hazardous materials and other energy waste streams. The subsurface can also serve as a reservoir for energy storage for power produced from intermittent generation sources, such as wind and solar. These opportunities are directly linked to Administration priorities and to broader societal needs. Clean energy deployment and CO2 storage are critical components of the President’s Climate Action Plan and are necessary to meet the 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target of 83 percent below 2005 levels. Increasing domestic hydrocarbon resource recovery in a sustainable and environmentally sound manner is also an Administration goal that enhances national security and fuels economic growth. Thus, discovering and effectively harnessing subsurface resources while mitigating impacts of their development and use are critical pieces of the Nation’s energy strategy moving forward. Mastery of the subsurface requires efforts to address the following key challenges to optimize energy production, energy/CO2 storage, and waste storage/disposal: 

        Discovering, characterizing, and predicting: Efficiently and accurately locating target subsurface geologic environments; quantitatively inferring their evolution under future engineered conditions; and characterizing the subsurface at a relevant scale; 

        Accessing: Safe and costeffective drilling or mining with properly managed reservoir integrity; 

        Engineering: Creating the desired conditions in challenging highpressure/hightemperature environments; 

        Sustaining: Maintaining these conditions over long time frames throughout complex system evolution; and 

        Monitoring: Improving observational methods and advancing understanding of the microscopic basis of macroscopic complexity throughout system lifetimes. 


Grant applications are sought in the following subtopics:

a. Innovative Measurement of New Subsurface Signals Including Stress

Grant applications are sought to research, develop, and deploy new and original processes, techniques, tools, and/or sensors that support the SubTER crosscut initiative’s thrust areas of:  1.Subsurface Stress: technologies that measure the state of stress in the subsurface, and

2.New Subsurface Signals: deployable sensors and new methods of integrating different data types to interrogate the subsurface.

Responsive applications to this subtopic could include tools to image fracture networks, ways to improve visualization of the subsurface, and sensing and/or monitoring tools of all kinds, including fiber optic based technologies.  The innovations sought range from those that address grand challenges, such as measuring in situ stress real time, to more incremental advancements, such as addressing hydrogen darkening of optical fibers in wells.


Questions –Contact: Josh Mengers,


b. Other

In addition to the specific subtopic listed above, the Department solicits applications in other areas that fall within the specific scope of the topic description above.


Questions –Contact: Josh Mengers,

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