The founding members of UCFER are the following nine universities: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Texas A&M University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Southern California, the University of Tulsa, the University of Wyoming, and Virginia Polytechnic and State University. In 2019, the University of Tulsa withdrew from UCFER due to a lack of funding opportunities for upstream oil and gas research. The principal office of the UCFER is located at the Pennsylvania State University on its University Park campus.

An important feature of UCFER is the flexibility in the organizational structure to add new members to further strengthen UCFER’s research capabilities. New members must have strong technical expertise in fossil energy research and qualifications in disciplines that support NETL’s five core competency areas. Applications from university members were reviewed on a yearly basis. However, in September 2018, NETL has directed Penn State to stop the review of new member applications and move forward with the current member universities in the UCFER program due to the limited budget. Therefore, no new member applications will be accepted at this time.