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Why Should SPE Members Be Interested in Carbon Capture and Storage?

As chairperson of the SPE Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) Technical Section, I have frequently seen and heard the debate about CO2 and climate change at conferences, meetings, and in SPE Connect forums, often very vigorous, deep into the nuts and bolts of climate science, and with passionate discussions both pro and con. From a purely cynical point of view, I could make the argument that the debate is already over, as it is largely political, it doesn’t matter what we think, we are stuck with results that can significantly impact our industries, and we should do what we can to minimize the damage. However, I prefer to look at this more as an opportunity, a way to advance our social license, and as a series of technical issues that members of SPE are uniquely qualified to address.

Since the first commercial CO2 project in Scurry County, Texas, in 1972, more than 150 additional CO2 EOR projects have been put in place worldwide. These projects initially depended on natural CO2 and were located near three large natural CO2 resources: ­McElmo Dome in Colorado, Bravo Dome in New Mexico, and Jackson Dome in Mississippi. More than 100 current CO2 EOR projects are located in the Permian Basin and Gulf Coast as a result. These projects were not initiated to save the planet or to sequester CO2; they were created by brilliant engineers and scientists trying to squeeze additional resources from declining reservoirs, and they continued because they were economical and extended the lives of fields.

CO2 EOR in miscible or near-miscible floods can revitalize mature fields, with a typical tertiary response on the order of the secondary recovery efforts in both duration and volumes. In the past, projects have been limited by chemistry, CO2 supply, and infrastructure. According to a report by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, only about 3–4% of potential US CO2 EOR sites—that is, those with proper pressure, temperature, and permeability for miscible flooding—are currently under flood. The remaining sites are awaiting available CO2, and, perhaps more importantly, favorable economics compared to other investment opportunities, such as unconventionals, where Permian shale oil is being produced for as low as $25 per barrel.

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Why Should SPE Members Be Interested in Carbon Capture and Storage?

Robert Balch, Director, Petroleum Recovery Research Center, New Mexico Tech

01 February 2020

Volume: 72 | Issue: 2

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