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

Advanced Resources International (ARI) estimates the original U.S. oil‐in‐place endowment at 624 billion barrels, located in several thousand already discovered domestic oil fields. Traditional primary recovery and water flooding have recovered about a third of this original oil‐in‐place, leaving behind a significant oil resource of 414 billion barrels. A significant portion of this 414 billion barrels of remaining U.S. oil endowment is technically favorable for application of CO2‐EOR, estimated by ARI at 284 billion barrels.


In addition to the remaining oil in‐place in the Main Pay Zone of discovered fields, significant additional volumes of oil in‐place exist in the Residual Oil Zones (ROZs) below existing oil fields and in ROZ “fairways.”


The NCC report details the significant potential of CO2‐EOR for utilizing and storing CO2 in a diversity of geological settings.

  • CO2 floods in the Main Pay Zone (MPZ) of discovered oil fields (onshore L‐48, Alaska and Offshore Gulf of Mexico) offer a technical potential for utilizing and storing 38,320 to 52,240 MMmt of CO2
    (depending on CO2‐EOR technology) with significant associated production of crude oil ranging from 85 to 167 billion barrels.
  • While the economically viable potential from the MPZ (at an oil price of $85 per barrel and with CO2 costs linked to oil prices) is more limited, the CO2 utilization and storage volumes are still significant at 10,740 to 23,580 MMmt (depending on CO2‐EOR technology) plus 28 to 81 billion barrels of economically viable oil recovery.
  • CO2 floods in the ROZ resources assessed to date could provide an additional 25,300 MMmt of technically viable CO2 utilization and storage, and significant volumes of associated oil recovery on the order of 42 billion barrels. Advances in CO2‐EOR technology such as those embedded in the suite of “Next Generation” technologies would enable these ROZ resource to be efficiently  recovered.

The growth of CO2‐EOR has always depended on the availability of secure, affordable sources of CO2 . While currently the majority of CO2 used by the EOR industry comes from natural sources, such sources are limited and increasingly expensive to develop. Experts anticipate that the supply of natural CO2 for EOR will peak and then plateau at 3.4 Bcfd (65 MMmt/yr) before slowing declining and will be consumed in the next 15 to 20 years. As such, significant additional CO2 supplies, captured from industrial and fossil fuel‐based power plant CO2 emissions, will be needed to accelerate EOR development and to enable CO2‐EOR to realize its full potential.



Integration of CO2‐EOR and CO2 storage would provide significant new revenues to a variety of stakeholders. With a potential for 81 billion barrels of economically viable oil recovery from mature oil fields and the ROZ (assuming use of “Next Generation” technology), the various CO2‐EOR stakeholders would gain valuable revenue and economic benefits.

Recipients of CO2‐EOR Revenues* Revenues

  • CO2 Capture and Transporters – $1,210 billion
  • State, Local and Federal Treasuries – $1,130 billion
  • CO2‐EOR Investors (including Return on Capital) – $1,270 billion
  • General Economy/Mineral Owners – $2,060 billion

Total – $5,670 billion

*Assuming an oil price of $70/B.

Clearly, CO2‐EOR represents the best opportunity to utilize CO2 at scale while providing an economic return for stakeholders and bolstering U.S. efforts to attain energy independence. In its CO2 Building Blocks report, the NCC recommends that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) support current CO2‐EOR technology by clarifying regulatory barriers, advancing the development of infrastructure such as pipeline networks, and offering financial incentives for CCUS technology deployment. NCC also encouraged DOE’s support for deployment of next generation CO2‐EOR technologies to realize further benefits associated with ROZ CO2‐EOR.

Despite the many barriers to deployment of other geologic and non‐geologic markets for CO2 use, NCC recommended that further investment in CO2 utilization technologies should be undertaken. On a case‐by‐case basis (at a specific coal power plant, for example), deployment of a CO2 utilization technology may hold promise for turning an uneconomic project into an economically viable one. Establishing a technology review process to assess the benefits and challenges associated with the various CO2 utilization technologies could be used to prioritize candidates for research development and deployment.

A steadfast commitment to the urgent deployment of CCUS technologies can advance U.S. environmental stewardship goals while simultaneously providing economic and energy security benefits. Win‐Win‐Win!