Capturing carbon to produce more oil: Climate solution or folly?

Apr 30, 2014

Any method that leads to the production of more oil seems counter to the prevailing wisdom on climate change that says use of more greenhouse-gas-emitting fuel is detrimental. But there's one oil-recovery process that some say could be part of the climate change solution and now unites unlikely allies in industry, government and environmental groups, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society.

Jeff Johnson, a senior correspondent at C&EN, explains that a process called (EOR), which uses carbon dioxide to force the last bits of oil out of partially depleted wells, is fueling this rare agreement. The technique is not new, but what's becoming tantalizing now is where the carbon dioxide comes from. With new advances in carbon capture, the possibility is growing that the carbon dioxide could come from power plants that otherwise would release it into the atmosphere. The environmental and economic appeal is already driving new research into carbon capture techniques. And if power plants could offset the costs of implementing these techniques by selling captured carbon dioxide to oil companies for EOR operations, it could be a win-win situation. An additional perk of enhanced oil recovery is that, according to the oil , about half of the carbon dioxide they use to extract oil stays underground.

But, as the notes, the process is not entirely without flaw or opposition. The carbon dioxide that is supposed to remain tucked away can and has escaped through leaks. In one 2011 case, an inadequately capped, old well-bore released carbon dioxide for 37 days, suffocating wildlife in the area. And not all environmental groups are onboard. One is challenging a proposed project in California that they say could put the local community at risk.

Explore further: Optimize carbon dioxide sequestration, enhance oil recovery

More information: "A Carbon Commodity" cen.acs.org/articles/92/i17/Carbon-Commodity.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sequestration and fuel reserves

Jul 30, 2013

A technique for trapping the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide deep underground could at the same be used to release the last fraction of natural gas liquids from ailing reservoirs, thus offsetting some of the environmental impact ...

Water treatment could be carbon neutral

Mar 31, 2014

Carbon dioxide released by some wastewater treatment plants could be recycled at the same time as enhancing the production of renewable energy in the form of natural gas, say scientists.

Recommended for you

Changing global diets is vital to reducing climate change

15 hours ago

A new study, published today in Nature Climate Change, suggests that – if current trends continue – food production alone will reach, if not exceed, the global targets for total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissi ...

Water police on patrol in drought-scarred Los Angeles

22 hours ago

Los Angeles isn't the world's wettest city at the best of times. But a record drought has triggered extra measures—now including "water police" checking on over-zealous sprinkler users and the like.

Shell files new plan to drill in Arctic

Aug 29, 2014

Royal Dutch Shell has submitted a new plan for drilling in the Arctic offshore Alaska, more than one year after halting its program following several embarrassing mishaps.

Reducing water scarcity possible by 2050

Aug 29, 2014

Water scarcity is not a problem just for the developing world. In California, legislators are currently proposing a $7.5 billion emergency water plan to their voters; and U.S. federal officials last year ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

peter_trypsteen
not rated yet Apr 30, 2014
There should be more research into converting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into graphite.
Much safer to handle and store.
1reniernel
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2014
Capturing CO2 this way, is kind of rob Peter to pay Paul. Carbon dioxide itself contain 72.7% of its mass as lost atmospheric stock oxygen. The enormous ocean and land sinking of CO2, physically shrink the atmosphere, which directly increase earth's 24/7 input radiation power. Natural production of carbonate minerals also contribute to rid oxygen.
This type of carbon dioxide capture by human activity, is just a minute contribution to what is indeed already happening as the main stream of carbon captured oxygen leaving the atmosphere.
The unofficial "hydrogen footprint" as "combustion-water-river", flowing from out of the runaway global oxygen fire, contribute to a third of direct physical atmospheric collapse.
namarrgon
3 / 5 (2) May 01, 2014
Needs more numbers. Creating fuel from atmospheric CO2 is only useful if they can get the efficiency of the process to levels competitive with other fuels.

Likewise, CO2 absorption by ocean or land is a tiny fraction of total atmospheric volume - but how tiny? It goes both ways, release as well, but what is the net change? How long at that rate before it becomes significant? Can't judge anything without knowing the numbers.