CO2‐EOR: A Win‐Win‐Win for Energy, the Economy, and the Environment

In its CO2 Building Blocks report, the NCC assessed a variety of markets for CO2 and the potential of those markets to incentivize CCUS. Geologic and non‐geologic markets were evaluated. Geologic markets include technologies such as EOR, enhanced coal bed methane (ECBM), CO2 shale, and less developed options such as enhance water recovery (EWR) and geothermal and subsurface energy storage. Non‐geologic markets include chemical products and other value‐added products, such as inorganic carbonates and bicarbonates, plastics and polymers, fuels, and fertilizers, as well as food and beverages – dry ice, baking soda and carbonated drinks.

Utilizing CO2 in non‐geologic applications faces a host of hurdles, including:

  • Current U.S. policies that arguably favor geologic uses.
  • The immature status of nearly all non‐geologic CO2 utilization technologies.
  • Logistical and infrastructure issues related to either the siting of CO2 utilization facilities close to utility or industrial CO2‐emitting plants or transporting CO2 from these plants to remote CO2 utilization facilities.
  • Market limits and impediments, e.g., products derived from CO2 presumably would be competing against and endeavoring to displace comparable products made from other feedstocks.
  • Technical barriers involved in the successful reduction of CO2 to carbon products, including thermodynamics and kinetics.

Among geologic utilization technologies, CO2 ‐EOR and ECBM are already commercialized while others, such as saline storage and CO2 shale, remain subject to ongoing research and have not yet emerged as commercially available technologies at scale.

Taking into consideration policy objectives and timelines, the volume of CO2 needed to be used/stored, the technology’s commercial status and technical limitations, it’s clear that CO2‐EOR remains the most immediate, highest value opportunity to utilize CO2 at scale and with the promise of some level of economic return. Given the technology’s potential to produce significant quantities of domestic oil, CO2‐EOR also represents significant potential in supporting U.S. objectives to achieve energy security and energy independence.

THE PROMISE OF CO2‐EOR2

CO2 ‐EOR has been underway in onshore, Lower 48 (states) oil reservoirs for more than 40 years. Based on the 2014 Oil and Gas Journal Survey, 136 significant CO2‐EOR projects produced 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil by injecting 3.5 Bcfd (67 MMmt per year) of newly sourced CO2. With growth in CO2‐EOR activity in the past two years (as of August 2016) and including co‐production of natural gas liquids, the current CO2‐EOR production estimate today is 400,000 B/D.