WASHINGTON, DC - The Department of Energy today announced it is launching a new research effort aimed at maximizing U.S. oil and natural gas production while sequestering significant quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The new effort is being launched through a solicitation to fund research of up to $3 million per project for field-testing and validating integrated enhanced recovery/ sequestration technologies. Projects may last 2-5 years and require a 50 percent cost share by the recipient. The projects will be managed through the Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), America's only national laboratory devoted to fossil energy research.
Injecting an oil reservoir with CO2-the same gas that gives soda pop its fizz-thins crude oil left behind and moves it to producing wells. As the fastest-growing technique for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), CO2 "flooding" now accounts for 4 percent of the Nation's oil production. Flooding a natural gas reservoir with CO2 moves previously bypassed natural gas to producing wells by pressurizing and/or displacing it-although this enhanced gas recovery (EGR) technique is not widely used.
An added benefit is that projects using an industrial source of CO2 would be capturing and safely storing, or "sequestering," the CO2, the predominant greenhouse gas. DOE currently is funding one such project, the first CO2 flood in Kansas, which gets its CO2 from a nearby ethanol plant.
Oil and gas fields' capacity for sequestering CO2 is enormous. One study conducted for DOE estimated that the global sequestration capacity in depleted oil and gas fields equates to 125 years of current worldwide CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants.
A series of reports on six regions of the United States released in April 2005 by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy pointed to significant growth potential for CO2 flooding outside its usual regional U.S. confines. The studies concluded that a CO2 flood campaign in large, favorable reservoirs could yield more than 43 billion barrels of incremental oil using the latest technologies. That compares with America's current total proven oil reserves of only 28 billion barrels. Such a widespread CO2 campaign could increase U.S. oil production by 2-3 million barrels per day by 2025.
For such a campaign to take hold, however, operators would need to be assured of the availability of affordable CO2 supplies. While CO2 prices have dropped, industrial sources of the greenhouse gas are more expensive than natural CO2 sources. And large natural sources of CO2 often are distant from oil and gas fields amenable to this method of enhancing recovery; that means huge volumes of untapped oil or gas must be targeted for recovery to justify the expense of building a pipeline to transport the natural CO2 to the fields. This explains why half of the world's CO2 floods are in the large, prolific Permian Basin oilfields of Texas and New Mexico, not far from some of the of the biggest, low-cost natural sources of CO2 in the United States.
In addition to the solicitation, DOE also plans to sponsor a CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery Workshop in Houston, Texas. The workshop will be hosted by the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC)-a nonprofit organization funded by DOE to transfer new oil and gas technology to the Nation's thousands of small, independent oil and gas producers. This free workshop is scheduled for February 22, 2006. Meeting details are available at PTTC's website at www.pttc.org .