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

April 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: Using the energy in oil shale without releasing carbon dioxide in a greenhouse world

More information: "A Carbon Commodity"

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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.
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.
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.

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