free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 240. CLEANING THE PETROLEUM CRACK PIPE

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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