Enhanced oil recovery -- a technique that stimulates aging wells -- combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) could slash U.S. petroleum imports if there is a strong price on carbon, according to a report commissioned by an environmental group and released yesterday.
The Natural Resources Defense Council backed the report that says combining CCS with enhanced oil recovery could boost U.S. production by 3 million to 3.6 million barrels a day.
"Significant growth is dependent on sourcing affordable carbon dioxide," said Mike Godec, vice president of Advanced Resources International, which prepared the report. "Climate legislation obviously would give enhanced oil recovery a kick start and allow the technology to grow most rapidly."
Oil companies for years have wrung as much oil as they could from maturing wells. And for the past 35 years or so, they have been pumping CO2 into aging reservoirs to displace oil and enhance production.
Those efforts have produced about 1.5 billion barrels of domestic oil since 1986, or more than 250,000 barrels per day. But companies using the technique rely on natural sources of CO2, and that has posed a problem.
"The real limiting factor historically has been the availability of CO2 supplies, not the availability of reservoirs," said Tracy Evans, president of Denbury Resources Inc., which uses enhanced oil recovery with CCS.
A House-passed climate bill and pending Senate legislation could spur the technology's use, the report says. If a price on CO2 emissions pushed industrial emitters to develop capture technology, the greenhouse gas could easily be transported to oil recovery sites, Evans said.
And by pumping captured CO2 underground and sequestering it, the United States could cut its carbon emissions by 530 million tons by 2030, the report says.
Interest in enhanced oil recovery with CCS has grown recently. In response to a separate report this month that mentioned combining oil production and CCS, NRDC's Wesley Warren said such an effort "could cut U.S. oil imports in half, helping the economy and enhancing national security without raising new environmental concerns."
The Energy Department has provided funding for several projects in Mississippi and Alabama that are attempting to prove the technology's feasibility and effectiveness at permanently storing CO2.
Click here to read the report.