Initiatives

Enhanced Oil Recovery Safety

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Where does the CO2 come from and where does it go? Today, most of the CO2 used in EOR operations is from natural underground ‘domes’ of CO2. With the natural supply of CO2 limited, man-made CO2 from the captured CO2 emissions of power plants and industrial facilities can be used to boost oil production through EOR.

Once CO2 is captured, it is compressed and transported by pipeline to oil fields. During EOR operations, CO2is injected into the oil formation where it mixes with the oil and helps move the oil through the formation and to the production wells. CO2 that emerges with the oil is separated and re-injected into the formation. CO2-EOR projects resemble a closed-loop system where the CO2 is injected, produces oil, is stored in the formation, or is recycled back into the injection well.

Is CO2-EOR safe? CO2 is non-flammable and nonexplosive. It is not defined as a hazardous substance, but a Class L, highly volatile, nonflammable/nontoxic material (CFRg, CFRe, Appendix B, Table 4). (WRI, 2008)

Operating for 40 years, CO2 pipelines have an excellent safety record with no serious injuries  or fatalities ever reported. Today there are over 3,900 miles of pipeline transporting CO2 for EOR use at wells producing 281,000 (MIT 2011) barrels of oil per day. The industry has operated for decades under existing policy and regulatory oversight at the local, state and federal level.

Geologic storage of CO2 is also regulated under existing policies and regulations. CO2 is contained by a series of physical and chemical trapping mechanisms over time. Most formations that hold oil for thousands of years also have the ability to contain CO2. As an example, research by the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology’s Gulf Coast Carbon Center on the SACROC oil field, where CO2 has been injected for EOR since 1972, has found no evidence of CO2 leakage (TBEG). Experience from this decades-old CO2-EOR project and current commercial-scale CO2-EOR projects today shows that CO2-EOR can be performed in a manner that is safe for both human health and the environment.

References:

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Enhanced Oil Recovery Economic & Job Benefits

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Does Increasing CO2-EOR Create Jobs? Yes. Workers will be needed across the full CO2-EOR value chain: from building and operating CO2 capture systems at power plants and other industrial facilities, to constructing new pipeline networks to transport CO2, to retrofitting and giving new life to existing oil fields.

For example:

  • The Kemper County Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle project in Mississippi, a new plant currently under construction, will create around 300 permanent jobs from power plant and supply chain operations. Employment during construction is expected to peak at 1,150 and average 500 jobs over a 3.5 year construction period. (DOE, 2010)
  • FutureGen 2.0 proposes to retrofit an existing coal-fueled power plant in Meredosia, Illinois with advanced oxy-combustion technology. The project expects to create approximately 1,000 construction jobs in Illinois from upgrading the power plant, building the CO2 pipeline and storage facility, as well as visitor, research, and training facilities. (FutureGen)
  • The 2010 Midwest CO2 Pipeline Feasibility Study included an analysis of job creation prepared by Northern Illinois University (NIU) on a proposed Midwest pipeline – which would transport manmade CO2 captured from coal gasification plants in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky to the Gulf Coast. NIU stated the pipeline construction would create over 3,500 local jobs over a four year construction period and over 2,000 jobs from indirect economic activity. (Lewis and Bergeron, 2009)
  • The Wyoming Grieve Field project (Fladager, 2011), a small-scale CO2-EOR project that has been approved for construction, will generate more than 50 construction jobs to revitalize and return an aging oil field to service. It will also add five to ten operations jobs and produce 12 to 24 million barrels of additional oil that will inject millions of dollars into Wyoming’s economy through taxes, royalties, and local purchasing.

Does Increasing CO2-EOR Stimulate the Economy? Yes. CO2-EOR will create and preserve high-quality jobs and enable states and local governments to realize additional revenue, inject millions of dollars into local businesses, and reduce oil imports and trade imbalances.

Recent estimates by the U.S. Carbon Sequestration Council (Carter, 2011) show that expanded CO2-EOR could provide up to $12 trillion, equal to about 80 percent of the U.S. national debt, in economic benefits to the U.S. over the next three decades, based on the “multiplier effects” of oil production on economic activities. The multiplier effect is the tendency for newly generated wealth to transfer hands and be spent several times.

A report by the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology’s (TBEG) Gulf Coast Carbon Center (TBEG, 2004) quantifies the total economic activity of oil production for Texas to be 2.9 times the value of the oil produced. In other words, almost two dollars of additional economic activity is created for every dollar of oil produced. Moreover, TBEG estimates 19 jobs for every $1 million of oil produced annually.

Advanced Resources International (ARI, 2010) estimates that an increase in oil production from CO2-EOR could reduce net crude oil imports by half and provide up to $210 billion in increased state and federal revenues by 2030. ARI also estimates that a robust EOR policy could reduce the U.S. foreign trade deficit by $11 to $15 billion dollars (2007 dollars) in 2020 and $120 to $150 billion by 2030. Cumulatively, this reduction in oil imports would keep $600 billion here at home, generating additional economic activity, jobs and revenues, rather than flowing out of the U.S. economy to other countries.

References:

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Enhanced Oil Recovery Environmental Benefits

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How does EOR reduce CO2 emissions? Using CO2 captured from power plants and industrial sources to enhance oil production has the potential to help the U.S. reduce its emissions by improving the CO2 intensity of the industrial and power generation sectors. Over the life of a project, for every 2.5 barrels of oil produced, it is estimated that EOR can safely prevent one metric ton of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.3

A current estimate of CO2 use for EOR is 72 million metric tons per year; 55 million metric ton of CO2 come from natural sources and 17 million metric tons come from anthropogenic sources. But the potential for EOR to contribute to CO2 reduction goals is great, as supplies of natural CO2 are constrained. The volume that could be captured and sequestered from industrial facilities and power plants to support “next generation” EOR could be 20- 45 billion metric tons of CO2. This is equal to the total U.S. CO2 production from fossil fuel electricity generation for 10 to 20 years. (ARI, 2011)

Will CO2-EOR harm groundwater resources? EOR is governed by federal regulations that require the protection of underground sources of drinking water, under the EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. Many states have obtained authority from EPA to administer the UIC program and have laws that meet or exceed EPA’s requirements. Permits issued by the EPA or states require that EOR operators manage their site in a manner that will prevent CO2 (and other formation fluids) from migrating out of the subsurface confining formation and into drinking water aquifers. ( 40 CFR §144.12)

The University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology’s (TBEG) Gulf Coast Carbon Center has studied the longest running EOR site in the world at the Scurry Area Canyon Reef Operators in Scurry County, Texas (SACROC). SACROC has been operating since 1972 and has injected over 175 million tons of CO2. TBEG has found no evidence that CO2 has escaped the EOR site and contaminated groundwater resources. (TBEG)

Furthermore, the International Energy Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Programme (GHGP) Weyburn-Midale CO2Monitoring and Storage project is the site of the world’s largest CO2 monitoring project. Since 2000 more than 30 internationally recognized research organizations have conducted scientific assessments of the integrity of the geological storage system, monitored CO2 in the deep subsurface, and tested for any evidence of anthropogenic CO2 at the surface.None of the studies have detected anthropogenic CO2 in the soils or groundwater. (Cenovus, 2011)

What is the land use impact? CO2-EOR largely takes place at existing oil fields and CO2 is transported through underground pipelines thus reducing land use impacts.

References:

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Enhanced Oil Recovery Overview

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How does CO2-EOR work?
CO2-EOR works most commonly by injecting CO2 into already developed oil fields where it mixes with and “releases” additional oil from the formation, thereby freeing it to move to production wells. CO2 is separated from the produced oil in above-ground equipment and re-injected in a closed-loop system many times over the life of an EOR operation.

A commercial technology established in North America in 1972, CO2-EOR could more than double economically recoverable U.S. oil reserves. 

Increasing EOR production by using captured CO2 is a compelling and largely unheralded example of American private sector innovation that supports several urgent national priorities:

  • Increase U.S. oil production from already developed fields with reduced risk and impact compared to conventional oil production; 
  • Strengthen America’s national security by reducing our dependence on unstable and/or hostile regimes for our oil supply;
  • Create new, high-paying American jobs, and retain and attract private sector investment in our economy;  
  • Reduce trade deficits by keeping petroleum expenditures at home and at work in the U.S. economy;
  • Achieve significant net carbon reductions by expanding opportunities for oil, natural gas, coal, ethanol and other industries to invest in commercially proven technologies to lower the CO2-intensity of their products.

Challenge: the U.S. needs to capture more CO2 to increase domestic oil production. CO2-EOR projects use CO2 to access and mobilize oil that otherwise would not be produced using conventional technologies.  One study states that with an increase in CO2 supply and by applying existing best practices, CO2-EOR has the potential to add as much as 61 billion barrels of oil to U.S. domestic oil production. 

CO2 capture projects and pipeline infrastructure are needed to meet this demand. Significant amounts of CO2 captured and transported from power plants and industrial sources are urgently needed to boost U.S. oil production through CO2-EOR.   

Support for CO2-EOR is critical to achievement of energy security, economic, and environmental benefits. The development of CO2 capture projects, build-out of CO2 pipeline infrastructure and improvements to existing oil field infrastructure is required to provide the level of CO2 needed to expand the US CO2-EOR industry. 

This requires private investment, and federal and state policies and incentives to support additional deployment of CO2 capture projects and infrastructure. These projects will provide jobs and economic benefits for local and state governments.  At a time when federal and state officials are struggling to reduce deficits, tax revenues generated from new projects can offset the additional cost of state and federal incentives and even increase government revenue over time.

The National EOR Initiative is committed to building a pathway to a secure and low-carbon energy future through expansion of CO2-EOR.  At its launch, the Initiative received bipartisan support from several members of Congress who are monitoring the Initiative’s progress and will receive final recommendations for legislative consideration.

EOR Initiative Timeline:

  • July 2011: Launch of National EOR Initiative and inaugural meeting.
  • August 2011 - January 2012: Ongoing work of industry, government and environmental leaders participating in EOR Initiative.
  • February 2012: Release recommendations. 

References:

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January 2012 Newsletter

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Learn about the Climate Leadership Conference, Australia's new carbon pricing mechanism, the Make an Impact energy conservation challenge, and more in C2ES's January 2012 newsletter.

The Role of Constraints in Low-Carbon Innovation

Climate change is the global innovation challenge of our time.  That was the theme of a Green Innovators in Business Network “Solutions Lab” in Cambridge, MA, last month co-hosted by C2ES, EDF, Innocentive, and others.  Dr. Andrew Hargadon, a leading expert in technology management and author of “The Business of Innovating,” articulated for participants the enormous scale of innovation needed to achieve a clean energy economy.  “Low-carbon innovation” is about dealing with new problems—carbon emissions, skyrocketing energy costs—that emerge from traditional solutions for making our economy work, such as for transporting goods or lighting our buildings.  Transforming energy-consuming activities to emit less carbon requires that we deploy new technologies that will work with conventional behaviors, and develop entirely new behaviors. 

December 2011 Newsletter

Click here to view our December 2011 newsletter.

C2ES's December 2011 features updates from the 17th annual Conference of the Parties (COP17) in Durban, South Africa, policy options for a clean energy standard, a blog post on the landmark new fuel economy standards, and more.

Low-Carbon Innovation for a Strong Defense

As discussed in the first part of this blog series A Strong Defense for Low-Carbon Innovation, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has both the demand for and procurement capabilities to advance the development and deployment of innovative low-carbon technologies. This post highlights a variety of leading businesses innovating and creating new opportunities in response to the U.S. Department of Defense efforts, and some of the challenges businesses encounter along the way.

Strategic public-private partnerships are key to helping the DOD meet its energy goals and present significant low-carbon business opportunities. Employing the expertise of companies, such as those specializing in electricity generation or computer technology, gives the DOD access to specialty skills and knowledge needed to advance innovative low-carbon technologies. Businesses, in turn, have the potential to enhance their competencies through government-funded research and development, or provide new technologies for commercial markets after large-scale demonstration through the DOD.

A Strong Defense for Low-Carbon Innovation

This post is the first of a two-part series on low-carbon innovation in the defense industry. It looks at how the DOD is uniquely positioned to drive low-carbon innovation. The second part in the blog series looks at how businesses are working with the DOD to bring low-carbon solutions to market.

From GPS to the Internet, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has a history of driving the creation of innovative technologies now used every day by Americans. With low-carbon policies a major challenge in Washington today, many clean energy advocates are seeking leadership from the DOD, which is the single largest consumer of energy in the country, to help drive clean energy solutions. Motivated by the need to better protect troops and support its operations, the DOD is becoming more involved in low-carbon technology research, development, and deployment. As stated in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), this work will shape the future commercial potential of energy technologies, as “military installations [serve] as a test bed to demonstrate and create a market for innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.”

Yes, You’ve Come to the Right Place

For those of you who came to our website today expecting to find information and resources from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, please don’t click away. Today we announced an exciting transition. We are now C2ES — the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. In addition to changing our name, we’ve refreshed our mission and strategic approach, updated our website, and made other changes to ensure that we can continue to craft real solutions to the energy and climate challenges we face today.

Yes, a great deal has changed in the last 24 hours. But what hasn’t changed is the need for straight talk, common sense and common ground. Today’s climate and energy issues present us with real challenges — and real opportunities as well. This is about protecting the environment, our communities and our economy. And it is about building the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable future.

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