As you know, carbon dioxide (CO2) is a by-product of burning hydrocarbons like coal, oil and natural gas.
And it’s much maligned by environmentalists, since it’s a key factor in global warming.
Well, carbon dioxide’s bad reputation might be turning around soon…
Because the energy industry is finding a way to capture carbon dioxide and put it to good use.
Michael Ming, General Manager of General Electric’s (GE) new Oil and Gas Technology Center, said recently that carbon dioxide presented a “huge” opportunity for the oil and natural gas industry.
Essentially, they want to capture carbon dioxide and use it to enhance oil production – or even (some day) to replace water in the hydraulic fracturing process.
Let me explain…
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Oil production from oil reservoirs is a three-phase process: primary, secondary and tertiary (or enhanced) recovery.
But after the first two phases, 30% to 60% of the oil is still left in the reservoir. Thus the need for enhanced recovery methods.
The latest method is called CO2-EOR, which involves injecting carbon dioxide into the reservoir.
The carbon dioxide mixes with oil, making the oil lighter. At that point, the oil can detach from the rock surfaces and flow more freely within the reservoir and up through the well.
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Now, the process isn’t exactly new. The method was first tried in Scurry County, Texas in 1972. It has successfully been used in places like the Permian Basin of West Texas.
Initial CO2-EOR projects, however, involved using only naturally occurring CO2 deposits adjacent to the oil.
Today, the energy industry wants to use carbon dioxide captured from industrial processes – such as fertilizer processing and ethanol production, or from electric utilities burning coal.
At that point, the captured CO2 will be transported to oil fields – either through pipelines or trucks – for injection into oil reservoirs.
Ming believes that the newer technologies have the potential to triple domestic oil production from enhanced recovery operations if the supply of available carbon dioxide is doubled!
There’s also the vast potential of using a chilled form of CO2, known as a “super critical fluid” (it’s neither solid nor liquid), to replace water as the new industry standard in fracking.
In my next article, I’ll point out some of the energy companies leading the way in these advancements in energy production using carbon dioxide.
After all, they’re at the forefront of an amazing (and potentially profitable) development in the sector.
And “the chase” continues,