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Thursday, February 16, 2006


Heading Out at the Oil Drum had an eye-opening post recently about EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) using CO2. Here's a tid-bit from the Oil & Gas Journal:
Glencoe Resources Ltd., private Calgary independent, is using the gas to improve recovery of primarily light oil from multiple formations in several depleted oil fields about 100 miles north-northeast of Calgary.

The company hopes to boost the recovery factor to as high as 40% from 10-20%.
Here's Heading Out's comments on another EOR program in China:
This technique is being used in Liaohe, the third largest oilfield, in China, which is now declining in production. By pumping in flue gas from a nearby power plant and combining it with steam the recovery of oil from the reservoir was increased from the 20 -30% achieved with steam, to around 50 - 60%.
From an article on Weyburn, a Canadian EOR project:
Carbon-dioxide injection will allow EnCana to extract another 140 million barrels of oil from its 51-year-old Weyburn field, an enormous volume at a time when the average new well drilled in Western Canada yields a mere 50,000 barrels.


An oil reservoir that has been drained to the point of being unprofitable is often called a dry well, but that term is misleading. In fact, it's more like a wet sponge: You can wring it once, and get a lot of water. A second squeeze will extract a bit more. Eventually, your efforts are in vain -- even though that sponge is still wet.

Now, better technology and high crude prices are about to shift an enormous amount of oil into the grasp of the industry. As many as five billion barrels could be added, according to Mr. Issacs. That would more than double Canada's conventional oil reserves.

Others have even higher hopes. Richard Baker, president of Epic Consulting Services in Calgary, says eight billion barrels could be added to reserves, a figure that would include the widespread injection of water into existing wells. "It'd be like finding eight giant reservoirs," says Mr. Baker, who is working on a report for the industry that is aiming to nail down the opportunity presented by enhanced recovery. "It's a question of when it's going to occur, not if it's going to occur."Source
I was initially sceptical about the economics of CO2 injection, but this Weyburn project is amazing. According to the stats, the project will produce 130 million barrels of new oil (market value: approx. $7.8 billion). Project cost: $5.3 million, including a 330km purpose-built pipeline from the U.S. to Canada. That's a very lucrative investment.

This is data from another Oil & Gas Journal article, kindly sampled by Heading Out:
The latest technology for enhanced oil recovery by injection of carbon dioxide holds the potential to recover 43 billion bbl of oil "stranded" in six mature US producing regions, says a study conducted for the Department of Energy.

DOE's Office of Fossil Energy calls the volume, estimated in the study by Advanced Resources International, "technically recoverable potential."

It identifies as "state-of-the-art CO2 EOR technologies" horizontal wells, 4D seismic to track injectant flow, automated field monitoring systems, and injecting larger volumes of CO2 than were used in earlier EOR projects.he study says state-of-the-art CO2 injection might recover 5.2 billion bbl of 22 billion bbl of oil unrecoverable by conventional production methods in California. The stranded oil is in 88 large reservoirs amenable to CO2 injection.
Note those figures: 43 billion bbl (=43Gb) of oil from mature producing regions in the US. That's four Prudhoe Bays right there -- almost as much oil as Ghawar has pumped in its entire service life. In the U.S. of all places! 43Gb is twice the current reserves of the U.S. That's enough oil to supply current U.S. oil demand, day in and day out, for 6 years.

This EOR phenomenon is causing a bit of angst and head-scratching amongst the peak oil pessimists. Dave from the Oil Drum says it well. He seems to be wrestling free of his denial and moving towards the acceptance phase:
Was this "technically recoverable potential" booked as reserves to begin with? The question matters because one of the common arguments used against peak oil is that EOR increases the URR. And that appears to be the case in these CO2 injection cases if the oil is indeed "stranded" and was never counted as reserves. If that is indeed so, then this would appear to be a case of reserves growth without new discovery due to the application of technology.
Indeed, it seems technology has helped us "discover" four new Prudhoe Bays in the U.S., and (yup, your guessed it) this will be YET ANOTHER type of "funny oil" which Colin Campbell will not add to his graph of discoveries ("The Growing Gap", see #238, #237 and #230 below). Or, if he does add it, he will be "backdating" it into the past so we can all maintain the polite peak oiler groupthink that we aren't discovering much oil anymore.

At a deeper level, I believe we are going to increasingly see a phenomenon which is familiar to anyone who has watched a marijuana smoker clean an old resin-encrusted pipe for a few more hits. There are incredible volumes of oil still remaining in old holes we discovered a long time ago, and pumped all the easy oil out of. So what are we going to do when we run out of new discoveries? We're going to go back to the old discoveries, and "clean the pipe".

Consider Ghawar. We have this field riddled with thousands and thousands of injecting/extracting perforations, and equipped with massive capital investments. Are we really going to walk away from if after it poops out the first time, or the second time, or even the third time? I doubt it. There will still be a massive volume of oil down there, already discovered, and we know it's there. Why not hit it with CO2, or fracture it with a nuke, or put a nuclear reactor on site to cook it out? Or even mine it, like coal, as was done in the early days of oil? Essentially, we're talking about a shift from a "hunter-gatherer" style of oil extraction, to a more sedentary, capital intensive "agricultural" style of oil extraction, as I've previously discussed.
-- by JD


At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 5:24:00 AM PST, Blogger Khebab said...

Godd post JD! I find that EOR techniques are generally overlooked by peakoilers. If oil stays around $50, we can expect a systematic application of these techniques when possible.

At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 6:41:00 AM PST, Blogger Chris Vernon said...

How does this address peak oil, the problem of peaking rates of extraction?

As we all know (but often forget) peak oil isn't about the amount of oil it's about the rate it can be extracted with a given amount of investment (hence why the massive tar sands and oil shale reserves don’t change the game).

If EOR isn't able to increase the rate of extraction or decrease the investment needed (so we can just do more of it) it doesn't help peak oil. Does it?

EOR like this sounds like a way to increase the area under the curve by stretching out the tail – useful for sure, don’t get me wrong, but doesn’t change the problem of not being able to continue to increase or even maintain the rates of extraction for much longer if at all.

At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 8:57:00 AM PST, Blogger al fin said...

I like the way you think, JD. It is easy to be a doomseeker and look for the dark cloud behind every silver lining.
The poverty in the undeveloped world is augmented by the fatalistic, pessimistic, doomseeking mental habits of the inhabitants.
Self-fulfilling prophecies of doom.
I am pleased to be able to come here and find someone who rejects that easy downward path.

At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 9:23:00 AM PST, Blogger Rob said...

BP has proposed a petroleum coke-fueled gasified power plant that would burn the hydrogen to make electricity, and pump the resulting CO2 into existing but depleted California oil wells. Could be very lucrative, but the fact that they're asking for handouts up front make me wonder about that.

At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 10:36:00 AM PST, Blogger Rebecca Necker said...

I don't know if asking for hand-outs means anything. Businesses will seek hand-outs if they think they can get them, regardless of whether they really need them or not. They'll even move a profitable enterprise from one country to another to take advantage of hand-outs. They ain't proud.

At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 3:46:00 PM PST, Blogger Paul Ramsey said...

This is all great news, as are other expensive new ways to keep the party going (like Greenland). Andrew McKillop wrote a series of essays a few years ago on the theme of "why we need $60 oil" (the prevailing price at the time hovering in the mid twenties) the gist of which was $60 was a good price to stimulate competitive technologies while not completely crashing the economy. Lots of good alternatives can be incubated and grown in this interim high-price, pre-peak plateau. A long slow climb in oil price is great news. Shame about that pesky global warming though. God may take us down yet, nasty monkeys.

At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 4:45:00 PM PST, Blogger Thomas said...

I agree with you completely. I admit that I may be guilty of having believed that the oil companies' promise of EOR was not credible. Ok, so URR may be higher than previously anticipated by Campbell et al.

But it's all about the extraction rate, which is also Campbell's reason for calling these techniques unconventional. The oil is not gushing anymore.

Having a long tail on the oil curve, with a slow decline is not something bad, it's good! Imagine if oil peaked when 80% was gone. That would be disastrous! Production would fall of a cliff.

We definitely need plenty of time to adjust to a time with diminishing supply.

This whole discussion reminds me of the feeling I had after a PO conference (with Robert Hirsch in the organizing commiytee) in Washington last fall: Everytime someone questioned future extraction rates, Big Oil responded by saying: "Don't worry, there are plenty of reserves. And we have all this wonderful technology that will get more oil out". Well, yearh, but higher instantaneous output or total output?

Another question is whether all this technology can be implemented fast enough? On a global scale? That's really anybody's guess.

Personally, I think the best case PO scenario is the one we're seing now. Supply increases year-by-year, but not as fast as demand (at fixed oil price). The result is a gentle, but steady increase in prices that will eventually spur enough confidence in the viability in alternatives to oil, such as renewable energy, plug-in-hybrids, etc.

The worst thing that could happen would be a drop in oil prices below $25 and effectively kill all alternatives just before PO really kicks in.


At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 4:49:00 PM PST, Blogger Thomas said...

How funny that you should write basically the same thing as I at the same time :-)

I hadn't seen your post before I sent mine. That's what you get for taking hours (including watching a tv-show) for posting comments...


At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 7:40:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Paul, since the Co2 is going into the ground instead of the air, wouldn't EOR be good for global warming?

It could be part of the whole carbon-sequestering coal plants caper. Get a bit of coal liquefaction going on the side, some electricity and hydrogen as byproducts, pump the Co2 underground for extra oil ...

Thomas, I agree with you that if the oil price dropped again it would be terrible, but I don't think that's going to happen with the demand from India and China (as I wrote on POD a few months ago).

It almost seems like we're going for a re-run of the 70s, with a relatively small price hike causing significant disruption, and then a second shock with a huge drop in production that didn't cause substantially more damage because the world had adapted.

If you look at the food prices at the time, food got more expensive with the first oil shock, but during the second, despite a much bigger increase in price, and a substantial drop in production (15% in 3 years), prices of many grains actually fell during the period. To me this mirrors the "mini oil crisis" today, and is a big point against the doomers.

At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 8:05:00 PM PST, Blogger popmonkey said...

roland said:

Paul, since the Co2 is going into the ground instead of the air, wouldn't EOR be good for global warming?

i'm pretty sure paul meant that we'll keep driving those hummers and polute the environment longer.

At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 10:41:00 PM PST, Blogger Flow said...

Great Post JD. I made a similiar post on a few months ago and got those doomers a spinning! I had found an article that said a firm in Canada had used CO2 injections to raise the extraction of oil from their well(s) from around 35% to close to 50%.

Apply this to worldwide proven reserves (around 1.178 trillion barrels) and we get a new proven reserve of 1.683 trillion barrels or an increase in proven reserves of around 505 billion barrels.

How many years does this push Peak Oil off by?

At Friday, February 17, 2006 at 11:03:00 PM PST, Blogger Chris Vernon said...

Flow: How many years does this push Peak Oil off by?

As I said above, not a lot! You've forgotten that peak oil is all about flow rates and not about your extra 505Gb.

If that 505Gb was conventional, fast flowing oil it would help but it isn't.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 1:35:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Global Warming Theory is a Pseudo Science that must be rejected. See:
Click Here

Peal Oil is a real crisis. We must not be distracted to the so called Global Warming Theory, which is a crackpot theory.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 1:54:00 AM PST, Blogger Freak said...

I think Global Warming and Peak Oil are both potential problems which are overhyped, maybe with the best of intentions at first but ultimately leading to an unhealthy emotional apathy in many circles as the average person can't do a thing about either of them with out some cooperative non-destructive medium with which to share their insight, like this site, which is perfect for that kind of networking, and not the apocolytic insanity which reigns over at the run of the mill Life After The Peak Oil Die Off Humans are a Virus Crisis websites.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 2:56:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...


There is no hype in peak oil. It is real. We see how oil peak in individual countries and individual fields already, so we know how it can peak world wide. Also, previous oil crisises, due to none-geological reasons, allowed us to taste a little bit what it is like when there is a supply shortage. Those were crisis where the supply is dented by merely 5% or less, and lasted a short period of time. The real Peak Oil crisis would be a much worse, and ever growing decline, and there is no end. So be prepared for it.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 8:38:00 AM PST, Blogger popmonkey said...

quantoken, wow, that link you point to is the dumbest debunking of global warming i've ever seen.

the article's basic premise goes like this: by burning fossil fuels we are simply releasing CO2 that was once in the atmosphere anyway and then recaptured by plant life.

all true, except we're releasing CO2 collected over hundreds of millions of years in approximately 150 years...

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 12:06:00 PM PST, Blogger Freak said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 12:09:00 PM PST, Blogger Freak said...


What are you trying to accomplish here? You say things which illicit such despair like:

"The real Peak Oil crisis would be a much worse, and ever growing decline, and there is no end. So be prepared for it."

Prepare for what, your scenario is impossible to prepare for isn't it?

On the subject of global warming, I believe there is a certain amount of flexibility in earth tolerance for C02 levels, but, what the logic of the article ignores is that the earth has gone through different states and cycles over the millenia.
Besides who is too say the extra plant life to the extract the excess Co2 won't be used by crops planted by man for biofuels?

It's very hypocritical to have your own dear doomsday theory and then attack the doom theories of others, it's very childish.

nothing you ever post is in the spirit of overcoming any challenges presented by the potential of an energy depleted world, and that being said, quantoken, why do you post here?

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 1:08:00 PM PST, Blogger Flow said...

Chris Vernon: As I said above, not a lot! You've forgotten that peak oil is all about flow rates and not about your extra 505Gb.

If that 505Gb was conventional, fast flowing oil it would help but it isn't.

I am confused. First, Peak oil was about reaching 50% of the oil that is available to produce, then it goes into decline. Then somebody points out that with conventional and unconventional oil we have around 5 trillion barrels of oil until peak oil happens the doomers change their tune to say peak oil is about the end of cheap oil, not the 50% mark. Then somebody points out that we can increase conventional oil reserves by injecting CO2 into existing wells to get even more oil out of those wells and all of a sudden peak oil is about flow rates.

You doomers kill me!

Can you please point out your source that says oil retreived from CO2 injections has a smaller flow rate than oil retreived from water injections or from straight wells - I would really like to see that concrete proof considering that CO2 injections are relatively new and have only been used in a hand full of wells around the world to date.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 1:54:00 PM PST, Blogger Freak said...


I am noticing that trend too. It seems like whenever there is some kind of optimism available the doomers can't wait to squash any hope, and I don't understand why......

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 1:54:00 PM PST, Blogger Freak said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 3:05:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Boy, one blog article with bad grammar said global warming isn't real because the carbon was there already ... it must be true!

Hey look at this and this. It proves Peak Oil is all made up as well!

You are really hurting your credibility here Quantoken.

Seriously though, both PO and GW are overhyped. I think the warming trend has as much to do with radiant heat caused by changes in land use. Still, it's a much more complicated issue than Peak Oil and I try to reduce my emmissions as much as I can.

One other thing — I think the fall in the 1970s was more than 5%, it was over 10%, and much faster than the natural peak will probably be.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 5:33:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

JD, have you seen Sweden's announcement that it wants to be oil-free in 15 years (story)? You should put it up in a post.

Great news! :-)

At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 11:18:00 PM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...


Fossil fuels took hundreds of millions of years to form because it was a very slow and very inefficient geological process. But that does NOT change a bit of the fact that every single carbon atom we release into the atmosphere today through burning of fossil fuel, originally came from the atmosphere.

Actually every single molecules of oxygen in the atmosphere today was the making of plants through photosynthesis. They breath in CO2 and release O2. That's the only source of O2 and that's why no other planets have free O2. If you detect free O2 on an ET planet that could be a clear indication that life exists there.

What it tells you is that prior to life on earth, instead of 200,000 ppm of O2 we see in today's atmosphere, there was a 200,000 ppm concentration of CO2 and no O2. Some how the global warming caused by 200,000 ppm was never a problem and the temperature was comfortable for life to originated and started to turn the CO2 into O2. So why would today's 377 ppm CO2 be of any concern?

Another dirty little secret is the observed CO2 concentration only raises 1.5 ppm per year. But if you survey how much fossil fuel we burn each year, and calculate how much CO2 they create, you are expecting a CO2 raise of more than 5 ppm per year. The data tells you that the bulk of CO2 released from fossil fuel, more than 70%, are re-absorbed by plantations and turn into biomass instead of stay in the atmosphere.


At Saturday, February 18, 2006 at 11:28:00 PM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...


I don't believe a bit that Sweden can achieve the "oil-free" goal. Are they going to have no more liquid fuel based vehicles any more? Not a chance, they probably either have to produce massive amount of biofuel themselves, in which case they need to import large amount of fertilizers, or have to import biofuels from other countries, in which case the other country has to consume large amount of fertilizer. To produce fertilizers you need natural gas and other fossil fuels. Plus Sweden probably will continue to import lots of goods that's made from fossil fuels. You really can't claim oil-independence as long as you continue to indirectly depend on fossil fuel based products.


At Sunday, February 19, 2006 at 3:45:00 AM PST, Blogger Omnitir said...

What it tells you is that prior to life on earth, instead of 200,000 ppm of O2 we see in today's atmosphere, there was a 200,000 ppm concentration of CO2 and no O2. Some how the global warming caused by 200,000 ppm was never a problem and the temperature was comfortable for life to originated and started to turn the CO2 into O2. So why would today's 377 ppm CO2 be of any concern?

The early free oxygen was of course not released by plants but by single celled organisms in the ocean. They “breathed” CO2 and combined with water to form carbohydrates resulting in the oceans slowly filling with oxygen. Some of this oxygen escaped into the early proto-atmosphere, and eventually enough oxygen gathered in the stratosphere to allow solar radiation to transform it into ozone. It was not until the ozone layer was formed that more complex multi-celled organisms could survive on land, which rapidly increased the rate of oxygen generation into the atmosphere allowing ever more complex organisms on Earth.

It is disingenuous to argue that the temperature was comfortable for life to evolve in the CO2 rich atmosphere and therefore will not be of any concern for today’s life if CO2 levels rise.

Rising levels of CO2 are a huge concern, not only because the planet will cook, but also because it is highly toxic to most species on the planet.

Global warming is most certainly real, and it is most certainly a concern. The only real question is whether or not humans have caused it. However IMO this is irrelevant. What matters is that we know that we can and should limit the CO2 output. So why the hell would anyone argue that CO2 emissions are of no concern???

That said, I do think GW is over hyped, and I don’t think we should cut down on technological progress. But we should strive to reduce CO2 emissions. Also, an often-overlooked optimistic fact is that the world’s oceans are responsible for the majority of CO2 to O2 conversion – not plants.

And incidentally, oxygen is actually the third most abundant element in the universe. Oxygen is everywhere.

At Sunday, February 19, 2006 at 11:33:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...


I was talking about FREE O2, not just O the element. Oxygen is abundant in the universe but free O2 is only to be found on the earth so far. Free O2 need to be continuously replenished by life forms so looking for signature of free O2 is one way they search for ET lifes.

Of course it's a very generalized statement without being too technically detail when I say "plantation" release O2. Even today, more than half O2 is released by bacterias and algaes, not by multi-cell plantation. So I was using the word plantation to mean all life forms that releases O2. That does not change the argument a bit at all.

If today's 30% CO2 level increase, from 300 ppm to 377 ppm, a mere 77 ppm increase, is enough to raise the ocean temperature by 0.6C, as claimed by GWT theorists, then, how about the pre-life 200,000 ppm CO2, which was 2600 times higher than 77 ppm. (try 0.6 C times 2600) The temperature would have to be so high that it's above bioling point of water. And no ocean would existed. And of course it was also a run away GW effect since the whole ocean is evaporated and all the water vapor in the atmosphere, which is also green house gas, could only add to the warming effect further!!! How could any life form, mono-cell or not, exist under such temperature, and lack of ozone layer is the least of concern!!!

Or you can make another argument. As the earth cools down from the primordial soup, oceans condense out of the water vapor in the atmosphere. But since all the water vapor are also green house gases, and lots of them (try to imagine how much water vapor we have if all the oceans, averaging 1000 meter thick of liquid water is evaporated into the air).

If the GWT is correct, the green house effect of all the water vapor would have kept the surface temperature so high to prevent the water from condensing into the ocean. So GWT is clearly wrong.

The reason GWT is wrong is it fails to acount for the fact that water vapor can release off its heat in the high air, by RADIATION, and then come down as rain to cool the ground. The water vapor can radiate away its heat in the high air precisely because it was a GREEN HOUSE GAS. So this process contributes greatly to the cooling of the ground: water evaporate from ground and then efficiently radiate away the heat in the air, and come down again. Being a green house gas really helps by radiating more efficiently. So that's my conclusion: The net effect of green house gas is COOLING, not warming.

At Sunday, February 19, 2006 at 8:38:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Quantoken, we all know that the Co2 we are releasing was in the atmosphere before. But it wasn't in there all at the same time. Even if only a small amount of Co2 gets stored each year, after 150 million years that's a lot of Co2!

Secondly, it doesn't matter what type of change the climate undergoes (warming or cooling) or what causes it (fossil fuels, land use, sunspots, natural cycles). At our current level of technology, any swift change in the climate is serious, whether Europe freezes or India cooks. You are always telling us how fragile the agricultural system is. Since we don't completly understand how the climate works, screwing around with it is a very bad idea.

(I think it's funny that I'm suddenly the "doomer" here.)

Regards fertilizer, you said it yourself: To produce fertilizers you need natural gas and other fossil fuels. "Natural gas and other fossil fuels" are not oil. The only reason their prices go up when oil goes up is because demand on them increases.

Sweden is not going to be "oil-independent" in the sense that it is part of a global economic system that uses oil. No country can be oil-independent. You can't be tomato-independent or fried chicken-independent either. But you can ensure that your country doesn't need to burn any oil for heating, driving and industrial purposes in order to operate properly.

Since you believe that Peak Oil is so important, I would think you would welcome the admirable response of Sweden to the situation, and perhaps even gone to live there. But apparently problems are less fun when someone is addressing them.

At Thursday, February 23, 2006 at 3:50:00 AM PST, Blogger sameu said...

I agree with chris vernon

In the end, what will be the big problem, expensive energy! people who can't pay their energybills, companies going bankrupt, unemployement...inflation...

What will be the cause of this expensive energy, the fact that we need 85 million barrels of the good stuff a day, every day, and you better be sure they're on the market cause otherwise the price will go up.

So ofcourse the total amount of recoverable oil is important. But more specific, or supplementary, it's also important to keep the oil flowing at 85 million barrels a day and at ever increasing rates.

You can have a ton of cocaine, but if you can only smuggle and sell it at a rate of 1 gram at a time, you'll very soon have unhappy customers.

At Monday, November 17, 2008 at 6:30:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This site is a joke. No enhanced oil recovery techniques have increased US oil production, which has been in rapid decline for several decades and average drilling depths have increased markedly, meaning energy cost to pump what is already less than it was is increasing. Make no mistake, any way to increasing EOR is a big help, but there isn't anything now or foreseeable that will replace losses. The oil reserves of the US have been known since the 1950's.

At Monday, November 17, 2008 at 6:34:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's nothing doomerish about oil production decline, knowing that (it's been known since 1970) it will and IS occurring, should provide the impetus to conserve energy and increase R&D and construction of alternative energy sources.


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