CO2 Enhanced Recovery

Through the injection of carbon dioxide into its reservoir, one of Texas’ oldest oil fields is getting a new lease on life.

The project is underway in the Hastings oil fields south of Houston. A new, $1 billion pipeline carries the CO2 from south Louisiana to the reservoir. The gas is injected into a well, mixes with trapped oil and creates a new fluid that flows more easily. Experts say it can boost oil recovery rates by 60 percent.

Meanwhile, Texas-based Greencore Pipeline Co. is working to build a 23-mile-long pipeline across Wyoming to carry liquid CO2 from a natural gas plant to a Montana oil field to enhance recovery there.

Greencore’s proposal is to capture carbon that is currently vented into the atmosphere from the gas plant. The capture and reuse of the CO2 would remove as much as one million metric tons of the so-called greenhouse gas annually from the atmosphere. It would also help revive the Bell Creek field, which reached peak production in the 1960s.

“This has the potential to significantly boost oil production in southeast Montana,” said Dave Galt, executive director of the Montana Petroleum Association.

Both oil industry and government officials say they believe this injection process could become a springboard for similar projects that would allow drillers to access potentially tens of millions of barrels of previously unrecoverable oil reserves in the region. In fact, a study last year by Advanced Resources International reported the method could produce an additional 85 billion barrel of oil in U.S. fields.

It could also be the determining factor in whether there is a viable market for carbon capture. The federal government is definitely watching. In June, the Energy Department announced $612 million to build three large carbon capture and storage projects.