The Doomer crowd has been talking up ‘peak oil’ for years and if one uses the price mechanism as only static, unmoving, never to go up, ‘peak oil’ could work.  But prices are going to reflect demand vs. the supply.  Each close call of demand closing on supply will get a price spike up followed by a spike down as consumers recoil demand.  The issue is to calculate the mean price over time, a task for the brave.

A high enough mean price will generate investment into reserve development.  Media, politicians, investors and the public all seem to chase the new discovery idea and ignore the recovery from oil already available.  But the major independent oil companies and the midsized ones are deep into secondary recovery and tertiary techniques to get out oil they already have.  Some technologists are researching how to close in on 100% recovery, a number that applied worldwide could triple the amount of oil already used in the past 150 years from reservoirs already found and developed.

That makes two new oil based fuel sources, the new discoveries and the new techniques to recover from found reservoirs.  Just like the end product markets, these two are going to be developed in concert with prices. There’s likely less risk in recovery technology.

Only about 10 to 20 percent of a reservoir’s original oil in place is typically produced during primary recovery, the gushing and pumping phase. Secondary recovery techniques usually are injecting water or gas to displace oil and drive it to a production wellbore, resulting in the recovery of 20 to 40 percent of the original oil in place.  Next is tertiary, or enhanced oil recovery (EOR), techniques that offer prospects for ultimately producing 30 to 60 percent, or more, of the reservoir’s original oil in place.

Over the past three years the Department on Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy has highlighted, using technical reports, the significant potential for state-of-the-art and advanced oil recovery technologies to develop the large volume of remaining undeveloped domestic oil resources in the U.S.  Ten basin-oriented assessments- four new, three updated and three previously released- estimate that 89 billion barrels of additional oil from currently “stranded” oil resources in ten U.S. regions could be technically recoverable by applying state-of-the-art CO2-EOR technologies.

CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery Diagram. Click image for more info.

What’s that CO2-EOR?  CO2 gas Enhanced Oil Recovery.  Great stuff as we’ll see, but there are problems.  First is coming up with the CO2.  CO2 is still only something under 350 parts per million in the atmosphere, and is greedily getting sucked up by the oceans and plants.  It’s not cheap.  For all the climate whining, dense concentrations are still widely dispersed and not necessarily close to the oil reservoirs.  Separating it out from the air is wildly expensive, a technology in intense research from motives of clean air and bio and synthetic fuel production.

One demonstration at the Dakota Gasification Company’s plant in Beulah, North Dakota is producing CO2 and delivering it by a new 204-mile pipeline to the Weyburn oil field in Saskatchewan, Canada. Encana, the field’s operator, is injecting the CO2 to extend the field’s productive life, hoping to add another 25 years and as much as 130 million barrels of oil that might otherwise have been abandoned.

First tried in 1972 in Scurry County, Texas, CO2 injection has been used successfully throughout the Permian Basin of West Texas and eastern New Mexico, and is now being pursued to a limited extent in Kansas, Mississippi, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Montana, Alaska, and Pennsylvania.  The limits?  Getting the CO2.

New technologies are being developed to produce CO2 from industrial applications such as natural gas processing, fertilizer, ethanol, and hydrogen plants, and coal and natural gas power plants in locations where naturally occurring reservoirs are not available.

A project funded by DOE in the Hall-Gurney field in Kansas seeks to demonstrate CO2-EOR’s time has come – providing energy, economic and environmental benefits. A companion project underway in the Hall-Gurney field involves testing the feasibility of 4-dimensional high resolution seismic monitoring of CO2 injection in thin, relatively shallow mature carbonate reservoirs.  Incorporating such time-lapsed monitoring data into CO2-EOR programs could dramatically improve the efficiency and economics of using the technology in many mid North American continent fields.  The race to 100% is underway.

Three new breakthroughs in CO2-EOR recovery technology could further enhance oil recovery in Texas and other oil producing states. One DOE-industry partnership project is investigating gravity-stable CO2 injection in the Permian Basin in West Texas, where the goal is to increase oil recovery in the Scurry Canyon Reef field, again.

The other is about the presence of an oil bearing transition zone beneath the traditionally defined base (the oil-water contact line) of an oil reservoir.

Number three is the clear and documented in a series of DOE Office of Fossil Energy reports, that under certain geologic and hydrodynamic conditions, an additional residual oil zone exists below the transition zone.  This resource could add another 100 billion barrels of oil resources in place in the U. S. An estimated 20 billion barrels could be recoverable with current state-of-the-art CO2-EOR technologies.

Before one gets way cheered up, this is expensive technology and isn’t 100% predictable.  There are also things to consider adding such as other gases like nitrogen or natural gas itself.  Then there is the tried and true adding heat, plus the known and very expensive chemicals such as surfactants and polymers to keep in mind.

The research is driven by oil companies who are guided by the oil’s cost at the top of the ground.  In turn they’re risking against the market price for oil.  There’s that mean price of oil, again.

Plants, the oceans, biofuels, synfuels, industrial uses, oil recovery, all looking for their CO2 – CO2 could get rather dear.  And there are folks worryin’ about too much . . .


10 Comments so far

  1. Ridiculous Laws, Part n of Infinity « Gravity Loss | Alternative Fuel Automotive Wisdom on January 12, 2010 1:40 AM

    […] Its Not the End of Oil Just Get What's Already Found | New Energy … […]

  2. Matt Musson on January 12, 2010 7:11 AM

    Unfortunately, the supply of oil is no longer the only factor for price. The inflated supply of dollars is causing the price to rise in a period of falling demand.

    Also, institutional speculators are becoming a factor.

  3. Polskie on May 13, 2011 7:38 PM

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