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February 01, 2008

Enhanced Oil Recovery part of getting 17 million more barrels per day of oil in North America

Enhanced oil recovery already supplies 650,000 barrels per day of oil in the USA. It could scale to 2-3 million barrels per day by 2030.

CO2-EOR (Enhanced oil Recovery) is already being applied to selected, geologically favorable oil reservoirs with access to affordably priced natural and industrial sources of CO2. Based on the latest (April, 2004) Oil and Gas Journal’s enhanced oil recovery survey, approximately 206,000 barrels per day is being produced domestically from the application of CO2-EOR, with the bulk of this oil production coming from the Permian Basin. Another 102,000 barrels per day is produced using hydrocarbon miscible and flue gas immiscible enhanced oil recovery from fields that would be amenable to CO2-EOR should affordable supplies of CO2 become available. Finally, application of thermal EOR technology (TEOR), primarily in the large heavy oil fields of California, provides 346,000 barrels per day.


California will be shifting to steam based thermal EOR recovery to access seven times more (2.45 billion barrels of oil instead of 350 million barrels of oil) shallow heavy oil. To access deeper heavy oil, there is work in Canada and the USA to develop more advanced technologies involving horizontal wells, low cost immiscible CO2, and advanced thermal EOR technology could significantly increase the
recovery of this otherwise “stranded” oil.


A 2006 consideration of what is economic for CO2-EOR oil has a $35 per barrel oil assumption. More oil becomes economic at higher prices. It seems safe to assume that $35/barrel oil prices will be sustained to justify accessing more of the oil.

More “advanced” CO2-EOR and other EOR technologies, such as gravity stable CO2 injection and horizontal wells, could improve the recovery efficiency of “stranded” oil from domestic reservoirs. Miscibility enhancers, conformance control agents, and advanced immiscible CO2-EOR technology could extend the application of CO2-EOR to reservoir and basin settings currently excluded from further development. Extending these technologies to recovery of “residual oil in the transition zone” (ROZ) would add additional volumes of recoverable oil. Successful pursuit of advanced EOR technology will be central to achieving the 70% national oil recovery efficiency goal established by DOE/FE for its oil technology R&D program.



North American could have 17 million barrels per day of oil with an all out push for oil. This does not include a reassessment of the Bakken oil formation.


Getting more of the oil that is under the ground


How much oil could be accessed in which states ?

Here is a 64 page report from the US dept of energy on undeveloped oil.

A 120 page DOE report on game change technology for enhanced oil recovery

Five potential “nextgeneration” advances in CO2-EOR technology, namely:

1. Increasing the volume of injected CO2 to 1.5 hydrocarbon pore volume
(HCPV), considerably beyond what has been traditionally used.

2. Examining innovative flood design and well placement options for contacting and producing the higher oil-saturated (less efficiently waterflood swept) portions of the reservoir, often containing the bulk of the ”stranded” oil. This would include adding new horizontal and vertical wells targeting selected reservoir strata and using gravity-stable CO2-EOR process designs (in steeply dipping and domed oil reservoirs) to increase overall reservoir contact and oil displacement by the injected CO2.

3. Improving the viscosity of the injected water to reduce the mobility ratio between the injected CO2/water and the reservoir’s oil to reduce viscous fingering of the CO2 through the mobilized oil bank.

4. Adding “miscibility enhancers” to extend miscible CO2-EOR to additional oil
reservoirs that would otherwise be produced by the less efficient immiscible CO2-EOR process.

5. Finally, using the full combination of “next generation” CO2-EOR technologies, which involves injecting higher volumes of CO2, adopting innovative CO2 flood and well design, and adding mobility control, to bring about “game changer” increases in oil recovery efficiency from favorable domestic oil reservoirs.



Costs of enhanced oil recovery versus regular methods. Regular methods get 10% of the oil and enhanced methods get 47% in this case. The DOE target is to get at 70% of the original oil in place (%OOIP, the second line).

This 2006 DOE press release has links to the research reports and summarizes the findings in terms of billions of barrels to be made accessible.

A counter position that lists out complaints against these targets. I would note that peak oil position wants to have it both ways that oil prices will be too high and we will face economic ruin and societal collapse and if oil is developed that we cannot make the new oil efforts in time or without environmental damage. I would say that there will be balance. If oil prices are high enough (economically and to society) then more costs will be willing to be incurred to get at the oil. Getting at the oil should be a transition phase while we get other sources of energy going like nuclear (fission and fusion), wind, solar, geothermal and more efficiency (use less energy).

2 comments:

Al Fin said...

The economics of oil recovery has changed a lot in the past decade--as your chart illustrates.

Peak oil prognostications ignore such changing incentives for renewed production from "exhausted" wells.

I suspect the numbers have gone up since 2004, instead of down.

bw said...

I agree that peak oil forecasters tend to ignore that with higher oil prices methods that were to constantly suddenly become very profitable and worth pursuing by many companies.

This gets balanced by some inflation as costs for people and equipment can go up. But again there is incentive to fix the bottlenecks.