The Weyburn Warning : Carbon Capture and Enhanced Oil Recovery

UPDATE : I have been advised to be more precise about what Beulah actually is. The update is bolded for your convenience.

The Weyburn Oil Field field in Saskatchewan, Canada has been the centre of attention for several good reasons over the last few years.

Some of the grease-brained petroleum engineers had a brilliant idea one day : how about trying to pump extra oil out of the field by injecting waste gas into it ?

Just over the border in the United States, the gasification plant that produces syngas at Beulah had a convenient source of Carbon Dioxide, and so the Enhanced Oil Recovery plan was born.

At the same time, the oil field could be monitored to check whether the Carbon Dioxide underground injection could prove to be a permanent storage of the Greenhouse Gas.

And who knows ? If this plan worked, then the extra oil recovered from the oil field could pay for the Carbon Capture and Storage.

Things have not gone according to plan, however.

This was one of the original projections :-

http://www.seed.slb.com/subcontent.aspx?id=4182

See the chart marked “Weyburn Oil Field CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery” :-

http://www.seed.slb.com/uploadedImages/Science/Earth_Science/Global_Climate_Change_and_Energy/Related_Articles/weyburnEnhanced(1).jpg

At first, things looked good, like the projections on the enhanced oil recovery, extra “incrementals” were measured.

But why, in 2008, was the data only presented up until 2005 ?

Take a close look at Slide 10 of this Powerpoint Presentation :-

http://www.iogcc.state.ok.us/Websites/iogcc/Meetings/Midyear_Meeting/Calgary-2008/Leah-Lawrence.pdf

“CO2 Storage and Enhanced Oil Recovery : The Weyburn Story : May 5, 2008”

And then compare it to Slide 5 of this Powerpoint Presentation presented in 2009 :-

http://www.er.gov.sk.ca/adx/aspx/adxGetMedia.aspx?DocID=10291,10289,3384,5460,2936,Documents&MediaID=25531&Filename=EnCana+Weyburn+Presentation+(March+6_09)_Final.pdf

“Weyburn CO2-Enhanced Oil Recovery : March 6, 2009”

You can clearly see that the Enhanced Oil Recovery has peaked, and that the Weyburn field is now in decline.

Meanwhile, the reports on the Carbon Capture part of the project still (fingers crossed) look OK :-

http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/3682/1/RR05003.pdf

“The IEA Weyburn CO2 Monitoring and Storage Project : Final report of the European research team : British Geological Survey 2005”

“Executive summary : No evidence for leakage of the injected CO2 to ground level has so far been detected.”

“4.1.4 Conclusions : A large background dataset has been obtained from soil gas monitoring at the Weyburn site. This has revealed seasonal variations in gas concentrations and fluxes. It provides an important baseline resource against which to compare future data and evaluate any escape of injected gas at the surface. All the evidence suggests that CO2 in the soil gas is produced biogenically.
There are no indications of any significant leakage of gas from depth. It is, however, important to maintain the monitoring effort and to focus on development of new rapid measuring techniques, enhancement of continuous monitoring and further assessment of potential pathways for deep gas migration.”

What this means is that the potential for Enhanced Oil Recovery is very likely not going to pay for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in other oil fields.

And this means that CCS is going to stay darn expensive.

2 thoughts on “The Weyburn Warning : Carbon Capture and Enhanced Oil Recovery”

  1. Pretty sure the Weyburn/Beleluh operation was quite profitable for all parties involved. Perhaps not as profitable as once hoped, but there are other projects moving ahead from their example. Enhanced oil recovery is a booming business right now.

  2. EOR is a booming market. I am currently analyzing the key strategic issues surrounding the market and specifically, anthropogenic carbon sources. Industry experts and all key data indicated that projects like Weyburn are nascent stage anthropogenic projects that have strong potential given that all current naturally occurring CO2 is contracted out.

    The expense issue for CCS is worth mentioning but again, assuming new technologies for capture will be created (several in pilot or near-pilot phase today), incremental oil >$70 BOE would make CCS an economically worthwhile venture.

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