The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
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Research & Development Grants – Award Year 2017

Preventing the Next Spill: Understanding Systemic Risk in the Offshore Oil and Gas Environment

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Key Dates

Letter of Intent
December 7, 2016: Online Submission of Letter of Intent Opens (CLOSED)

February 1, 2017, 5:00pm ET: Letter of Intent Due (CLOSED)

A Letter of Intent is required for this funding opportunity.

Full Proposal
February 2, 2017: Online Submission of Full Proposal Opens (ONLY open to Applicants who submitted a Letter of Intent)

April 12, 2017, 5:00pm ET: Full Proposal Due

Fall 2017: Award Announcement 


With this grant opportunity, the Gulf Research Program (GRP) seeks to support research that will advance fundamental science or provide the scientific basis for the development of new technologies, processes, or procedures to reduce or better understand the systemic risk leading to uncontrolled hydrocarbon release in the offshore oil and gas environment. Proposed research should address scientific and/or technological research gaps identified in literature, by industry, or by regulatory agencies – gaps that, if filled, could result in a reduction of systemic risk in the offshore oil and gas environment.


Comprehensive awareness—across industry and regulatory communities—of risks, drivers of risk, and steps to mitigate risk, is needed to reduce existing risks and to anticipate and avoid new risks related to offshore oil and gas operations. This funding opportunity seeks to identify and fund fundamental research and/or technological development to spur innovation that improves understanding and management of systemic risk. By understanding systemic risk, we mean understanding the components of the system, the system itself, and how humans interact with the system, in which a failure of any part could lead to failure of the system as a whole.

What we are looking for

For Award Year 2017, we seek proposals for advancements in fundamental science and technology that reduce or result in a better understanding of the systemic risks leading to uncontrolled hydrocarbon release during drilling, production, or decommissioning activities in the Gulf of Mexico or other U. S. outer continental shelf regions that support oil and gas production. Areas of particular interest to this topic include, but are not limited to:
  • Formation rock mechanics: Advancement of the capacity to predict a subsea well control situation broaching the seafloor or breaching the surrounding formation.
  • Well and production system integrity: Assessment of the integrity of the overall engineered production system, as it interacts with the earth.
  • Wellsite data: Identification of precursors to loss-of-control incidents and/or increased understanding of process safety using detailed wellsite data.
  • Kick detection system: Identification of early kick detection and improvement of the understanding of kick precursors including more complex models of challenging situations and near bit sensing of hydrocarbon inflow from the surrounding formation.
  • Riser gas unloading: Advancement of the fundamental understanding of the behavior of free gas volumes in a deep water riser, including improvements in modeling and testing deep water riser gas scenarios.
  • Cementing/wellhead sealants: Development of novel approaches for improving and assuring sealant effectiveness.
  • Integrity of abandoned wells: Increased understanding of the frequency and magnitude of leakage from abandoned wells.
  • Seafloor hydrocarbon detection technology: Advancement in the detection and/or communication of hydrocarbon presence near the wellhead.
  • Enhancing decision making capabilities in offshore exploration and production work environment.
    • Understanding and/or improving decision-making under adverse circumstances present in the offshore oil and gas work environment.
    • Improved sensors, instrumentation, command electronics as well as data interpretation technologies and display to aid in critical decision making during offshore oil and gas operations.
    • Improved training for critical decision making skills specific to offshore oil and gas operations.

We anticipate that successful proposals will demonstrate:
  • Fundamental understanding of systemic risk: Research should yield information that is fundamental to improving understanding of systemic risk in the offshore oil and gas environment. As applied to reducing the risk of uncontrolled hydrocarbon release, information obtained from this research should either:
    • provide the fundamental science to improve upon a known technology, process, or procedure,
    • directly improve upon an existing technology, process, or procedure; or
    • lead to the development of a new technology, process, or procedure.
  • Understanding of the current state of knowledge: The project team should demonstrate a clear understanding of the current state of knowledge of the issue to be addressed and the relationship of the issue to offshore drilling, production, or decommissioning activity.
  • Actionable Information toward safer operations: Successful proposals should explain how completion of the proposed research or development will either reduce risk or increase understanding of specific risks, and how such reduction or improved understanding will lead to safer operations and a reduced chance of an uncontrolled hydrocarbon release event.
  • Offshore oil and gas stakeholder involvement: As appropriate, projects should involve those who are directly involved with the research area of concern, whether this be the offshore development owners, the contractors, the operators, or regulatory agencies. The level of engagement depends on the nature of the project. Projects that include the appropriate offshore oil and gas stakeholder involvement are likely to produce more applicable research and/or development.
  • Scientifically valid research: The project team should propose qualitative research that will yield data and results suitable for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

What we will not fund
  • Projects that clearly lie under the direct responsibility of industry or regulatory agencies.
  • Projects that are currently underway or that address issues that are already widely studied.
  • Research on personal or occupational safety (e.g. slips, trips, and falls).

Award Information

Anticipated Project Duration: 36 months
Anticipated Total Amount for this Funding Opportunity: $10 million is available.
Estimated Number of Awards: To be determined. Resources made available under this funding opportunity will depend on the quality of proposals received and the budgets proposed by successful applicants. The GRP reserves the right to select for negotiation all, some, one, or none of the proposals received in response to this solicitation.
Anticipated Award Date: Fall 2017


The Gulf Research Program welcomes proposals from all types of U.S. organizations, excluding federal agencies, on behalf of qualified individuals. The applying organization will be referred to as the applicant hereafter. The individuals who will lead the proposed project will be referred to as project directors hereafter.

Project directors usually initiate proposals that are officially submitted by their employing organizations (the applicant). When initiating a proposal, the project director typically is responsible for ensuring the proposal meets all the requirements outlined by the Gulf Research Program as well as any requirements set by the employing organizations.
  • This funding opportunity is for new activities only. The applicant must not have received any other support for this project, and the project must not be currently under consideration for funding by another funder. The proposed project can build upon existing research and activities, and applicants must clearly articulate what new elements this funding will support.
  • U.S. organizations (excluding federal agencies) that have a valid federal tax ID number are eligible to apply.
  • An applicant may submit multiple applications on behalf of different project directors, but it may submit only one application for each project director. Individuals may be involved as a project director and key personnel, or as key personnel, in up to three proposals; in each proposal, a clear description should be included to explain how the proposed project is not duplicative of other proposed efforts or how the participant will budget his or her time.

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