Montana Oil Field Revived by CO2

Friday, April 6, 2012 @ 01:04 PM gHale

By pumping carbon dioxide deep underground, a Texas company said it will be able to revive production in a 45-year-old Montana oil field to free up an estimated 30 million barrels of trapped crude.

The $400 million Belle Creek carbon dioxide injection project should begin operations by early 2013, said Denbury Resources Vice President Greg Dover. The gas will come in via pipeline from a ConocoPhillips natural gas plant near Lost Cabin, WY.

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A byproduct of natural gas production, carbon dioxide from such plants typically vents into the atmosphere, contributing to the energy industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Although using carbon dioxide for oil recovery dates back to the 1970s in parts of Texas, Denbury’s would be the first constructed in Montana, said Tom Richmond with the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation.

By pumping the carbon dioxide into depleted reserves, Denbury hopes to extend the life of the southeast Montana field by decades.

“That’s oil that would never be recovered if you didn’t use CO2 (carbon dioxide),” Dover said. “That’s oil that would just be left in the ground.”

A prior proposal by the Schweitzer administration to capture CO2 from a Canadian power plant and pipe it south for future use in Montana oil fields has not come to fruition. By contrast, Denbury’s efforts are well under way, with the 232-mile pipeline from Lost Cabin already half-completed and the remainder slated to finish up around the end of the year.

Denbury also plans in coming years to extend its pipeline to another, larger oil field ā€” the Cedar Creek Anticline.

Nationwide, there are more than 4,500 miles of carbon dioxide pipelines, including in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming and other states. That’s up more than 40 percent from 2004, when the government reported 3,200 miles of CO2 pipelines.

A major driver for the increased attention being given to carbon dioxide is the high price of oil, said Gerald Groenewold with the Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota.

Groenewold said ten oil fields in eastern Montana could yield an estimated 425 million barrels more of oil through carbon dioxide injection.

Getting enough carbon dioxide to make that a reality ā€” they would need an estimated 3,400 billion cubic feet ā€” would seem to present a stiff challenge. But Groenewold said companies like Denbury already are lining up major supplies of the gas from sources in Wyoming.

Richmond said installing carbon dioxide pipelines and other infrastructure for one or two of Montana’s larger oil fields could eventually make the practice more feasible for smaller fields, as well.

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