Currently fracking wells recover less than 10% of the oil in the North Dakota’s Bakken fields. Bismarck, North Dakota TV station KFYR aired a program discussing new technologies that might result in a major boost in the amount of oil recovered per well site. KFYR said that two technologies are under study.
Walking rigs – Used on Eco-pads that have several well bores at one location and can be moved from one well head to the next in a matter of hours instead of days.
CO2-enhanced recovery – The process has been used at other oil plays but would be new to the Bakken and could extend the life of wells there by 20 to 30 years.
KFYR quotes John Harju of the University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center:
“If we can maintain a relatively small footprint and in essence not have to drill a bunch of new wells and utilize carbon dioxide in existing bore holes and increase our recovery percentages, I think this a great thing.”
Harju, associate director for research at the UND Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC), served as a member of the National Petroleum Council for the 2010-2011 membership term.
While the emphasis has been on sequestered CO2 from coal-based power plants, there are natural sources as well, particularly in the Western US with some nearby in Wyoming. A report by Johnson Matthey “CO2 Purification” notes locations of natural sources.
These sources of carbon dioxide are produced by the Earth’s natural volcanic activity and can include both geothermal sources and natural wells. Carbon dioxide can be found in underground wells at concentrations of 90% to almost 100% depending on the location of the well. Large carbon dioxide wells exist in the United States (e.g. in Colorado, Mississippi, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) and in Europe (e.g. at Répcelak and Oelboe in Hungary and at Bad Driburg-Herste and Rottenburg in Germany). Geothermal carbon dioxide is found in numerous locations across Spain and Italy (e.g. at Torre Alfina).
I grew up in South Dakota and lived for years in Texas, so I know that even though a western State borders another, distances out there can still be huge(1). But the cost of the pipelines to deliver CO2 for enhanced recovery is likely to be economic at the current oil prices.
The development of this oil for our nation is nothing short of fantastic. I expect those European nations that can exploit oil shale will follow this trend in spite of environmentalists objections.
(1) There is an old story about a business in Chicago, Illinois that needs to send a salesman to Texarkana, Texas. So they look at their directory and find that they have a salesman in El Paso, Texas. They call the salesman who points out that the home office should send a salesman as Chicago is closer to Texarkana than is El Paso.