Drilling for black gold - Photo Credit - JP26 & Free Images - Pixabay
Welcome to the forty-first edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
Following a CCUS field trip earlier this year, which included tours of Shell’s Quest facility and North West Refinery I returned home inspired to write about CCUS. One of the motivating factors was to highlight the good work that is being done by oil companies in a bid to reduce its CO2 emissions.
This week I take a look at how advances in carbon capture and utilization technologies are being exploited to enhance the recovery of oil by oil companies on-site and how CO2 is being stored in place of the recovered oil.
Enhanced Oil Recovery
Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), this is a process where CO2 is injected into partly depleted coal seams. The CO2 helps remove fuel from small hard to reach seams and takes the place of the previously lodged fuel. This is a more efficient way of extracting oil from the ground as it reduces drilling and energy costs.
The Pembina Institute describes the EOR process as ‘CO2 injected into an existing oil well to increase pressure and reduce the viscosity of the oil, increasing the amount of oil that can be recovered’.
This is important because, in regions where oil is difficult to extract from the ground such as the Canadian oil sands, millions of litres of water are boiled to produce steam in order to soften and extract the oil tar.
The institute also highlights the opportunities of EOR being the permanent storage of CO2 and a revenue stream that can offset the cost of EOR technology. The main drawback is that EOR facilitates the extraction of additional CO2 heavy fuel out of the ground for use.
EOR is a mature CCUS technology and the Global CCS Institute has highlighted some noteworthy EOR processing facilities on its website:
Great Plains Synfuels Plant and Weyburn-Midale
The Great Plains Synfuels Plant is situated in North Dakota, US and produces CO2 during its coal gasification process. It captures up to 3 Mtpa (metric tonnes per annum) and transports it to the Weyburn Oil facility in Saskatchewan, Canada where it is used to help extract oil via EOR processes. To date, roughly 35 million tonnes of CO2 have been used.
Terrell Natural Gas Processing Plant (formerly Val Verde Natural Gas Plants)
The Terrell gas processing plant in South Western Texas has been capturing roughly 0.5 Mtpa of CO2 for over 40 years and transporting it by pipeline to McCamey Texas. From there it is connected to the Canyon Reef Carriers (CRC) pipeline and the Pecos pipeline and used across oil fields to enhance the levels of oil recovered.
The Century Plant is another natural gas plant in Texas with a CO2 capture capacity of 8.4 Mtpa. The CO2 captured at this site is also transported by pipeline to the Texan oil field boost oil yields from extraction.
EOR is a mature CCUS technology which helps reduce the amount of water used and energy consumed during the extraction of oil from oil fields. In addition to its cost-saving benefits, EOR can also be a supplementary revenue stream for any heavy industry company, that applies it to their production plants.
The main limitation of EOR is that it aides the extraction of more CO2 intensive fossil fuels. However, as EOR and other CCUS technologies have proven, the CO2 generated can be captured and put to good use or permanently stored.
Next week’s blog will profile Austria and their efforts to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets.
If you liked this article you might enjoy reading some recent articles in the series:
Week 40 Clean 15: what can we learn from the low carbon economies.
Week 39 Norway: driving carbon storage and electric cars in Europe
Week 38 Desalination: water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink