This site has looked at enhanced oil recovery before and the techniques described here are being applied in the Middle East, Netherlands and oil fields around the world.
Singularity Technology is not needed to push peak oil past 2040, but related super technology would be needed to move beyond oil and fossil fuels around that timeframe. Although enhancing current nuclear fission technology with factory mass produced deep burn reactors and a shift to electrification could also enable a substantial shift from oil and fossil fuels. I expect that earlier than expected success with nuclear fusion (IEC fusion, Field Reverse Configuration – Tri alpha Energy/Helion Energy, and/or dense plasma focus fusion) will demonstrate success this decade and begin commercialized energy generation 2020-2025. The energy picture could be totally changed 2025+ especially if manufacturing technology improves as well.
Conventional technological progress is also making more supplies of natural gas and coal available and increasing the efficiency of the power plants by up to double current levels (30% increasing to 50-70% efficiency.
Groups led by Rice professors James Tour, Michael Wong and Mason Tomson and Rice researcher Amy Kan are collaborating on a system by which hydrophilic carbon clusters (HCC) — microscopic entities designed to sense the presence of oil — can be sent into a well by the billions and come back to the surface full of valuable information
Refineries could trim millions of dollars in energy costs annually by using a new method developed at Purdue University to rearrange the distillation sequence needed to separate crude petroleum into products.
The researchers have demonstrated their method on petroleum plants that separate crude, showing that 70 of the new sequences they identified could enable oil refineries to improve the energy efficiency of this step anywhere from 6 percent to 48 percent, said Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering.
Chemical plants spend from 50 percent to 70 percent of their energy in “separations,” which are usually distillation steps required to separate a raw material into various products. In the case of petroleum, four distillation columns are needed to separate raw crude into five separate components – naphtha, kerosene, diesel fuel, gas oil and heavy residue. Some of these components are later used to make gasoline.
“Separations are a huge part of what chemical plants do,” Agrawal said. “Improving efficiency by only a few percentage points translates into major savings. For every 100 barrels of oil distilled, nearly two barrels go into supplying energy for distillation. That’s a lot of oil.”
Recently completed “basin studies” of applying “state-of-the-art” CO2-EOR in the U.S. indicate:
• Nearly 89 billion barrels of technically recoverable resource,
• From 4 to 47 billion barrels of economically recoverable resource.
Results are based on applying streamline reservoir simulation to 1,581 large oil reservoirs (two thirds of U.S. oil production).
The studies include only a tiny fraction of the Bakken oil field.
The Williston Basin oil and gas producing region of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana has an original oil endowment of 13 billion barrels. Of this, 4 billion barrels or 29% will be recovered with primary and secondary (waterflooding) oil recovery. As such, over 9 billion barrels of oil will be left in the ground, or “stranded”, following the use of traditional oil recovery practices. A major portion of this “stranded oil” is in reservoirs technically and economically amenable to enhanced oil recovery (EOR) using carbon dioxide (CO2) injection.
The thirteen billion barrels of oil in-place set forth in this report for the Williston Basin includes only a modest portion of the larger unconventional oil resource potential that may exist in the Bakken Shale. This is because this report only addresses the potential for applying “state-of-the-art” CO2-EOR technology to already discovered fields. Prior studies suggest that 100 to 150 billion barrels (perhaps more) of resource in-place may exist in the Bakken Shale of North Dakota, with additional in-place Bakken Shale oil resources in Montana. The feasibility of converting this large unconventional in-place resource into economic reserves using “next generation” CO2-EOR technology may be examined in a subsequent study.
“NEXT GENERATION” CO2-EOR TECHNOLOGY
Gravity-stable laboratory core floods can recover essentially all of the residual oil. Reservoir modeling and selected field tests also show that high oil recovery efficiencies are possible with innovative applications of CO2-EOR.
Process designs that improve CO2 contact with the reservoir can facilitate high oil recovery efficiencies.
So far, except for a handful of cases, the actual performance of CO2-EOR has been less than optimum:
• Geologically complex reservoir settings
• Lack of “real time” information on performance
• Limited process control capacity
Because of high CO2 costs and lack of information and process control, the great majority of past-CO2 floods have used insufficient volumes of CO2. A major barrier is the inability to target the injected CO2 to reservoir strata with high residual oil saturation.
• Innovative Flood Design and Well Placement
• Viscosity and Miscibility Enhancement
• Increased Volume of CO2 Injection
• Flood Performance Diagnostics and Control
– Inter-disciplinary technical teams
– 4-D seismic
– Instrumented observation wells
– Zone-by-zone performance information
1. CO2 enhanced oil recovery, while still an emerging industry, has the potential to add significant volumes of future oil supply, in the U.S. and worldwide.
2. Thirty years of experience shows that CO2-EOR is a technically sophisticated and challenging process, but one that can be successful if “managed and controlled”, not just “operated”.
3. “Game Changer” CO2-EOR technologies, incorporating scientifically possible but not yet fully developed advances, could significantly increase oil recovery efficiency.
4. “Early application” of CO2-EOR technology can significantly increase the economic value of the remaining oil resource.
5. Wide-scale application of CO2-EOR is constrained by lack of sufficient “EOR-Ready” CO2 supplies. A mutually beneficial link exists between CO2-EOR and
new industrial sources of CO2.
6. Under a “carbon constrained world”, productively using industrial CO2 emissions for CO2-EOR will become a winning strategy.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.