Carbon Dioxide Reserves Could Alter US EOR Map

Growth in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects using carbon dioxide (CO2) in west Texas could be limited by supplies unless new sources of the gas are found in the ground or from industrial facilities.

A recent report from the US Department of Energy (DOE) said that CO2fields currently supplying west Texas, which has the largest concentration of EOR projects using carbon dioxide, can continue to produce at current levels for 10 to 20 years. That might be a constraint in an area where the number of potential projects could significantly increase demand.

The report suggested, however, that this is not likely a hard limit on the carbon dioxide in the ground. “The exploration for subsurface CO2 deposits is not well developed, as discovered CO2 deposits have generally been the byproduct of oil and gas exploration,” according to the report.

A second DOE report made a case for significantly more CO2 production not far from west Texas. The report on technically recoverable carbon dioxide estimated that the gas in place in the San Juan area in New Mexico could add 22.4 Tcf of CO2 production—more than half of the estimated potential resource nationally, according to the report. Another 11.4 Tcf in potential production was identified within the Val Verde area in Texas.

The search for potential reserves included areas where volcanic activity millions of years ago was likely to have left large amounts of CO2. The resource estimate was based on what could be technically recovered using available technology. Development will depend on whether the gas in the ground—the San Juan and Val Verde deposits range from 12,000 to is 15,000 ft deep—can be produced at a price that backers of EOR projects are willing to pay.

The study of currently available production focused on places likely to have production costs of no more than USD 20/bbl at the source. While field owners typically pay up to twice that amount, the cost of transport and compression adds to the cost.

In contrast, there is a lot of room for growth in the northern Rockies, where 67% of the nation’s 96.4 Tcf of economically recoverable natural CO2 is found in the Big Piney-LaBarge field, according to the report. While the formation is relatively deep, the high-pressure formations produce rapidly and also contain helium, a valuable commodity that can be sold to offset the cost of removing poisonous sulfur dioxide gas.

If oil prices rise enough to convince operators they can afford to pay more for the gas, the available reserve total will increase. The technically recoverable CO2 ;fields that could supply west Texas could supply the area for 30 years at current production rates.

For the reports, search online for Subsurface Sources of CO2 in the United States from DOE/NETL.

Carbon Dioxide Reserves Could Alter US EOR Map

Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor

01 May 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 5