Fast solar cars and slow oil

Well as the solar cars race West along the Trans-Canada, travelling at the speed limit, there are a couple of struggles taking place including the leadership, that are fun to watch via the gps link. It is amazing to me that I can watch the race, almost in real time, from this far away. The lead car (Michigan may have passed Minnesota) reached Regina it appears about half an hour earlier than anticipated - what was that about keeping to the speed limit?

On the oil energy front today there is a different story. Ah, peak oil.

The United States is a relatively mature part of the world in terms of having seen a lot of the immediately available oil extracted. The oil that remains comes in many cases, from stripper wells, where the flow is small, but can remain steady for many years. Oil here has to be pumped out of the ground. The LA Times has a story on such an operation today on Cano Petroleum.
Johnson laid down $8 million for the field (in central Texas), which covers more than 10,000 acres.

Today, Johnson's company is using enhanced recovery techniques to pull 80 barrels of oil a day from Desdemona's 60 wells, or about 1.3 barrels per well. These are known as stripper wells — wells that yield less than 10 barrels of oil a day — and Desdemona is riddled with them.

"Stripper wells are huge in this country," said Jeff Eshelman, spokesman for the Independent Producers Assn. of America. "They're the equivalent of what we import from Saudi Arabia each year."

In 2003, according to the most recent data available, the nation's 393,463 stripper wells produced 313 million barrels, or about 15% of domestic, onshore oil production in the contiguous 48 states. Most of the country's stripper wells are in Texas, Oklahoma and California, with half of California's 42,000 oil wells classified as strippers. In contrast to the stripper wells' output, many larger wells that are being worked over by the likes of Chevron Corp. yield more than 100 barrels a day, according to Iraj Ershaghi, director of the Center for Interactive Smart Oilfield Technology at USC.
The article goes on to describe how the company gets the oil out of the ground using an enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technique.
Companies pump carbon dioxide, water or steam into old wells to push more oil out of the rock and up to the service. Sophisticated computer simulations can spot caches of oil hidden inside rock that can then be accessed by drilling out from a nearby well.

Cano mostly relies on a process known as alkaline-surfactant-polymer, which is used to get the last 16%-25% of oil out of the rock.

First, the wells are flooded with water and then a soap-like chemical is pumped underground that loosens the oil molecules from the rock — like dishwashing soap prying greasy residue off a lasagna pan. Finally, the oil is separated from the water and sucked up out of the ground. Sometimes, engineers actually use an industrial-sized vacuum to pull the hard-to-get oil caches out.

Using this technique, Cano's 2,601-acre field in Nowata, Okla., is producing 77,000 barrels of fluid a day, out of which the company is pulling 250 barrels of oil daily. "This isn't thick and tarry oil," said John Lacik, Cano's production, safety, health and environmental coordinator. "It's real pretty, greenish-gold and real lightweight."
The relative amounts of oil in the fluid (around 0.3%) makes the water cut in Saudi Arabia (about 30%) that have been the subject of some of Matt Simmons comments seem almost like pure oil.

The story includes a comment that the company has yet to make a profit, and comments on the lack of experts in the area.

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Oklahoma is pretty windy.  Makes you wonder if they're using wind power to run the pumps and whatnot.

Re: CO2 spurs Wyoming oil revival --- Peak Oil In A Nutshell

This is an AP article by Bob Moen working out of Wyoming. Really good stuff. CO2 enhanced oil recovery, etc. A lot of effort for not much oil. A great picture of the energy picture here in the Western states. Not a "stripper well" but still relevant.

J -- I'd like to hear your thoughts if you're reading.

CO2 spurs Wyoming oil revival

New technique provides access to untapped sources

By Associated Press
July 24, 2005

MIDWEST, Wyo. — By all accounts, the Salt Creek oil field was dying. Production had dropped from 6.3 million barrels in 1978 to 1.7 million in 2004, dragging Wyoming's statewide oil production down with it. By 2020, the field was expected to be dry.

But a project by Anadarko Petroleum Corp. using carbon dioxide to coax more oil out of the ground has revived the Salt Creek field so much that it is expected to single-handedly reverse the entire state's production decline.

It also will clear the landscape of thousands of unsightly power poles, power lines and conventional pumping wells, and prevent tons of greenhouse gases from polluting the atmosphere.

"It's good for the economy. It's good for the country. It's good for the environment," Anadarko spokesman Rick Robitaille said. "It's a very positive scenario."

After 100 years of drilling that yielded about 655 million barrels of oil, Salt Creek is now thought to still hold an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil. However, most of the remaining oil cannot be drawn out using conventional drilling methods and eventually the falling oil yields would make it impractical to keep the field operating.

Anadarko hopes to draw at least another 200 million barrels of oil out of the field by injecting CO2 into the ground, pushing the oil toward new and previously drilled wells. That 200 million barrels of oil would be enough to supply all residential, commercial, industrial, transportation and power needs in the state of Michigan for all of 2001, the latest year for which figures are available.

Don Likwartz, director of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said the Salt Creek project is expected to increase overall oil production in the state through 2009.

"That is quite an accomplishment considering we had 19 years of decline," Likwartz said.

In the early 1970s, Wyoming wells pumped out nearly 160 million barrels a year. Oil fueled the state's economy and gave rise to towns like Midwest, which exist against a background of pumping oil wells.

By 2004, production statewide had dropped to just 51.6 million barrels.

The key to Salt Creek's revival and the revival of Wyoming's oil industry is the carbon dioxide. Conventional wells that dot the oil patch landscape of America aren't capable of reaching most of the oil stored underground.

When CO2 is injected into the oil reservoir, the carbon dioxide latches onto the oil and moves it toward the conventional wells where it can be extracted.

"CO2 is the magic drug for getting the oil out of the ground," said Mike Boyles, a geologist with the University of Wyoming's Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute.

CO2 injection is predicted to boost Salt Creek's production from about 5,000 barrels a day now to 30,000 barrels a day by 2010.

However, CO2 injection requires huge compressors and miles of pipes that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, Boyles said.

Houston-based Anadarko is investing up to $624 million in Salt Creek. That includes building a 125-mile pipeline to carry the CO2 to the field, installing another 200 miles of new pipe within one two-square-mile area and hauling in huge compressors to push the CO2 underground.

"They're putting a lot of money in the ground up there," Boyles said.

But with world crude oil prices hovering around $60 a barrel, the investment should pay handsomely for Anadarko.

"They looked at it and decided it would work when oil prices were in the $20 range," Likwartz said.

However, CO2 is a limited commodity and whether CO2 injection can work depends on geology, well patterns and a host of other factors.

Carbon dioxide is produced in large amounts by coal-fired power plants, but most of it is vented into the atmosphere. It is a major source of greenhouse gases.

It takes expensive equipment to capture and process the pure CO2 that Anadarko and other companies need in order to flood oil fields.

Exxon Mobil Corp. does have a plant in western Wyoming that produces about 250 million cubic feet of CO2 a day. Anadarko has bought rights to half the amount and the other half is already being sold to other companies, Likwartz said.

"Right now there's nobody else who can get access to any CO2," Likwartz said.

At Salt Creek, Anadarko is injecting 160 million cubic feet a day, recycling 80 million cubic feet for reinjection each day and buying the other 80 million. Half the CO2 injected in the ground stays in the ground and out of the atmosphere.

Anadarko figures it can get at least around 10,000 barrels of oil a day out of Salt Creek until 2035.

"By then maybe someone will have figured out an even more efficient way to get oil out of the ground," Robitaille said.

Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Laramie, Wyo., said his group applauds projects like Anadarko's in existing oil fields as long as it doesn't mean bulldozing new roads and increasing the number of drilled wells.

"It's a good way to produce more oil and gas without impacts on the environment," Molvar said.

As the company moves through the entire field in sections, it is removing the wood poles and miles of power lines. It is replacing the two-story tall, rusting so-called grasshopper pumps with much smaller wells that consist of a short length of pipe, a solar panel, and boxes with batteries and wiring.

"It's a 100-year-old field and it definitely will be better when we get through," Robitaille said.

Anadarko, which has other CO2 flooding projects in Kansas and Oklahoma, is investing $160 million in another CO2 project in a formerly abandoned oil field in southwest Wyoming and is looking to start another CO2 project north of Salt Creek.

No non-subscription version was available. I got this at the Boulder Daily Camera. Does anyone know what's up with current CO2 injection? the cost? where they get the CO2? how do they transport it?

There are some costs, which I will have to look up, for the CO2 injections in the North Sea that were published as part of a degree in Norway, as I recall. I am also going to have to go back and look at some of our earlier posts, since I seem to remember reading one of the studies that led up to this.

How much it costs is dependent on how it is made. You get industrial CO2 from power plant exhaust, usually using MEA or DEA washer columns to remove the nitrogen. The columns are driven by the heat of the exhaust gas so the cost is in the equipment investment. The other method of separation used is to compress the gas mixture until the CO2 liquefies; the compression power usually makes this more expensive. If the gas is to be used for human consumption or welding, then further purification must be done (remove SO2, H2S, and NOx).

If there is no handy power plant or steel plant nearby, then you can buy CO2 generators, which are essentially burners with purification units. Breweries also produce a lot of excess CO2.

For transport you got liquid trucks, which IIRC hold about 9000 gal of CO2 liquid, or pipelines. You could probably do single wells with vaporized liquid, but otherwise you're talking a pipeline. In the middle of nowhere a pipeline could run $5-$10 per diameter in-ft, in an urban area this could run up to $100 per diameter in ft. To this you have to add compressor investment and power.

We posted on CO2 and EOR back here

I tried to pick up the OGJ story since it lists a number of places where the technique could be tried, but it requires a higher level subscription than I currently have.

The Chinese experiment that was referred to could be valuable, since they were using flue gases with much less clean-up and were getting a good return. I need to chase that up, one of these days.

Dave:  Compressed CO2 would be a drug on the mart if most coal-fired powerplants were converted to oxygen-blown IGCC; the gasifiers operate at ~400 PSI, and roughly half the carbon is converted to CO2 which is largely removed during the step which strips hydrogen sulfide from the syngas.

On top of this, even the early IGCC systems were 40% efficient compared to coal-steam's ~33%; they'd get 20% more energy out of that ton of coal.  Shipping half the carbon off to go underground again would be a huge win for the atmosphere.

The biggest problem with CO2 flooding is that it requires a specific type of reservoir where all the field is basically conitguous. Any compartmentalization increases cost by requiring seondary injections points, and basically a "project within a project" type deal.

My biggest concern is that by injecting CO2 into the ground we might be leaving time bombs all over the place. Oil and gas migrate, and reervoirs are not static. If a fault slips and allows the CO2 to migrate to a zone that can allow it to reach surface, it will. But if there is a leaki around the cement and casing in one of these wells after they have been plugged and abandoned, the CO2 will silently slip out and vent to atmosphere.

But it really does a good job in the right reservoir - Exxon upgraded their CO2 facilities about 5 years ago, and nobody knew why they were building such a huge plant. It is obvious they were getting ready for this in hindsight - they are good at making a buck.

In the mid '70's I worked for a drilling firm in the CO2 fields of NE New Mexico. The Bravo Dome formation there is one of the largest naturally occurring deposits of CO2 known to exist. Originally tapped in the 1930's to supply dry ice for refrigerating California produce on its way east, many of the pumping stations were shut down in the 1960's as mechanical a/c supplanted the old reefer cars. When the value of CO2 in tertiary extraction was demonstrated in the Permian Basin oil fields, plans were made to build a pipeline to this area. The outfit I worked for drilled a lot of wells and refurbished an old compressor station in anticipation of the coming bonanza. It never happened. I drove through the area last week for the first time in 25 years and everything we built has been abandoned. Sic transit gloria mundi.



I drove through Oklahoma last week and noticed a large wind farm going in around McAlester in the west central part of the state.


J's comment helps explain "... whether CO2 injection can work depends on geology, well patterns and a host of other factors."

Re: EP's post on IGCC, this recent CNN article Power Plant Builders See Profit In Turning Coal To Gas notes that it "hasn't been widely adopted because of reliability and cost concerns". In addition, " The DOE projects 16 gigawatts of IGCC generating capacity will be built by 2025, about one-fifth of the new coal-fired capacity that will be built in that time".

I have difficulty seeing why IGCC is still difficult.  Details like slag handling seem to be relatively straightforward extensions of what's already done in atmospheric combustion.  I've read the progress reports on projects like Wabash River; if they had big expensive problems, they didn't say much.

People have been complaining about the money in the energy bill for clean coal.  It looks to me like this money might be exactly what's needed.

I would say that the reliaibility and cost concerns for IGCC as compared to a coal-fired power plant stem mostly from the fact that there's 2 times as much equipment in the cycle. There's the oxygen plant, the gasifiers, gas cleanup, the shift reactors, the CO2 removal, the gas turbine, the steam turbine, and the waste heat boiler vs a boiler, a steam turbine, and maybe some exhaust gas cleanup. More stuff means more cost and more things to fail.

Good old negative entropy means that complex systems are more prone to failure. They ALWAYS cost more, and in development wind up becoming a very delicate balancing act between the various working components (my experience speaking here).

This is why in the oil patch we opt for KISS engineering principles rather than complex systems whenever possible. It is why we adapt new technology carefully and incrementally. Going whole-hog with multi-million dollar, complex systems usually results in a budget buster. Ramping it up piecemeal lets you work out the kinks and quirks that are inevitable when moving from the lab or drawing board to real working systems.

IGCC is difficult BECAUSE it is complex, and everything has to gin together for it to work correctly. And you also have to sell management - get their buy-in - for the more expensive initial capital outlay. This is never an easy thing to do when corporate management wants to see profit ASAP!

There's one way to make management see dollar signs in IGCC.  It's spelled "carbon tax".