BP: A power plant that reuses carbon dioxide?

The New York Times business section has an article that starts with the following paragraph:
Subsidiaries of BP and Edison International said yesterday that they were planning to build a power plant that would run on oil residues, and that 90 percent of the carbon dioxide would be captured and pumped into an oil field, where it would help push more oil to the surface.

According to the article, the gasification process that will be used in the California plant is said to be similar to what Bush talked about in the SotU when he mentioned "zero-emission coal-fired plants".
The plant would run by mixing an oil residue, petroleum coke, in a chamber with steam and a controlled amount of oxygen. In this technique, called gasification, both the fuel and the water give up hydrogen atoms to form hydrogen gas. This process also produces carbon monoxide, which is converted to carbon dioxide, giving off heat to sustain the reaction.

The hydrogen is then burned in a turbine engine, the kind that electric companies normally run on natural gas, and the dominant combustion product is water. The carbon dioxide is compressed into a liquid and injected into an oil field.

Although the fuel is an oil residue, and not coal, the technology is the same as one mentioned by President Bush in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 31, in which he said, "We will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants."

Dave recently had a post about CO2 injection, and suggested that if were done right, it would be a step in the right direction. In the case of the BP power plant, it looks like they're looking for a partnership with Occidental Petroleum, which has oil fields in the LA area.

But there is one thing in this article that might set off a tiny red flag:

Petroleum coke from the Carson refinery is usually trucked to the harbor and shipped to China, where it is burned for fuel.

Now, I don't know much about petroleum coke. I googled it, and it seems that burning petroleum coke for fuel has become economical in the recent past, but it's not exactly environmentally friendly (link):
Increased use of heavier grades of crude, coupled with technological advances in oil refining processes, has led to increased supplies of petroleum coke. This imbalance in supply and demand has resulted in a decline in the price of petroleum coke, thus making it an attractive fuel for power generation. While it has high heat density and low ash content, which are good, it also contains large amounts of sulfur, vanadium, and other heavy metals and has a low volatile matter content, which pose some technical and environmental challenges.

Somehow, I don't find this surprising. If we're shipping it off to China instead of using it ourselves, it cannot be good stuff. Still, as I've said, I don't know much about what petroleum coke is used for, so if anyone has any more to add about petroleum coke, please do so below.
Don't all oil fields contain natural gas in some measure? And isn't that natural gas eventually either produced for sale or flared off (or separated and re-injected, to be re-produced later)?

If you inject CO2 into an oil formation, does it not mix with the natural gas present there and eventually find its way back into the atmosphere as the natural gas is extracted?

Or is there a commercial process to extract CO2 from natural gas, and then re-re-reinject it? I was under the impression that C02 and other impurities in natural gas were dealt with by mixing lower-quality gas with gas from higher-quality sources to get a more-or-less uniform product.

I would think a more likely scenerio is the CO2 desolves in the water and forms Carbonic Acid.  This is the stuff that dissolves the limestone here in Florida and makes those wonderful sinkholes.  This might dissolve some of the underground structure and make it more porous.  This might even help with further oil production (or not, who knows).
GreenMan asked: "Or is there a commercial process to extract CO2 from natural gas, and then re-re-reinject it?"

Yes, Statoil of Norway has been doing this for a long time link:

About 2,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide are separated daily from Sleipner West's gas production and injected into the Utsira sandstone formation (aquifer), rather than released to the air.

This solution has been in use since the field came on stream in the autumn of 1996. But 2000 is when the saline aquifer carbon dioxide storage (Sacs) project demonstrated that the injected gas remains in place rather than leaking out.
With a thickness of 250 metres, the formation can store 600 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. That compares with a mere million tonnes being injected annually from Sleipner West.

"The entire carbon dioxide emissions from all the power stations in Europe could be deposited in this structure for 600 years," says Mr Torp.
Mr Torp admits that the researchers cannot promise it will stay in store for ever. But a duration until the next ice age, in 5-10,000 years, must be good enough, he says.

Statoil will also separate and reinject the CO2 from its new Snovhit field

Sorry, the first link should have been this: link
Yes - it might have impurities but we can store them along with the CO2.  IMHO the only feasible way to get the CO2 out the atmosphere is to bio-engineer stuff that deals with it in the oceans.  Some hybrid that photosynthesizes like mad.  Yes,  its a desperate measure.

For the demand side:  What other approaches other than turning off the engines?

You don't really need any bio-engineering, just some plain (and quite simple) engineering. There is an idea of using iron fertilization to increase phytoplankton growth in oceans, which could potentially make a big difference. There are lots of uncertainties, tough, like what it would do the ecosystem.
There was an old lady that swallowed a fly... We'd want to be desperate before going too far with this, no?
No, all you have to do to get CO2 out of the atmosphere is to grow biofuels and not dump the carbon back.  I proposed a model in Going negative.
Seriously?  We will trust the energy industry to process this nasty stuff?  And the government to regulate it?  

A few days ago NPR had a story about a slough of new old-fashioned coal-fired plants going up and the Bushites granted clean air waivers.  The CEOs maintain we need that energy now--no time for this fancy gasification/sequestration stuff--wonderful though it is.

You can take this to the bank:
As the need for coal-based energy grows more desperate, the pressure to regulate for CO2. methane, vanadium, mercury, sulfur, etc., etc. will decrease accordingly.  

I think we have to take into account what kind of administration is in place as more coal is used.  A lot of people who (justifiably) wail about the infinite evils of the Bush crowd forget that those actions are almost universally policy reversals from Clinton.  If the US can find a way to get a rational president and cabinet into power in 2009, then a lot of the insane regulations (or insane lack of regulations) can be reversed pretty quickly.
lou: What are you recommending as alternatives?  Clinton's policy was to encourage natural gas plants.  We know what happened there.

The reality is that the American public wants power, and lots of it.

Hello everyone,

First time posting .. but I couldn't resist since the discussion is on CO2 injection.  I don't think most folks realize just how big this is going to be.  There are two drivers.  Obviously, the first is the need to reduce green house gases.  The second, is that liquid CO2 is superior to water recovery methods in legacy oilfields.  

I'm aware of one oilfield (one of a few who have recently started to use CO2 injection) in southern Saskatchewan (Canada).  They are getting enhanced recovery of 15%.

I thought too that some readers not familar with the new interest in CO2 recovery, might appreciate a fairly recent article about one company that is making a major investment in this.  

Here goes...

Seizing success in fields left to pasture By PATRICK BRETHOUR   Sunday, December 18, 2005

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
CALGARY -- Sometimes, John Dielwart has learned, a colossal failure can be transformed into a stunning success.

Mr. Dielwart, president and chief executive officer of ARC Energy Trust, has just made a $462-million acquisition of aging oil fields, catapulting his company into a major strategic shift. The deal, which closed yesterday, positions ARC at the edge of one of the hottest prospects in the oil patch: using carbon dioxide to rejuvenate elderly oil fields where conventional production techniques have run their course, and wring millions more barrels of oil from supposedly near-empty wells.

The process is similar to rolling up a tube of toothpaste to squeeze out every last drop: The CO{-2} is pumped deep underground, where it turns to a liquid under pressure and pushes the oil from one side of a reservoir toward a wellhead, allowing more crude to be extracted.

But Mr. Dielwart has a confession to make. ARC's entry into the world of CO{-2} is founded on a failure -- a really, really big failure.

Three years ago, ARC was "incredibly close" to buying into the oil sands. The trust had bid for a stake in one megaproject, but that offer was squashed by a company that exercised its right of first refusal.

He won't divulge any names, but there is really only one candidate: The Surmont project now owned by Total SA and ConocoPhillips Co. ARC had gambled that its bid was high enough to deter anyone from elbowing its way into the deal. But the determination of the larger company to keep outsiders from entering the project convinced Mr. Dielwart that the oil sands were closed to all but the biggest players. "This is their sandbox, and we're not being allowed in."

The overall goal -- find big, stable reserves -- remained the same, but the path there would have to change. Over the following 18 months, ARC's attention began to turn to enhanced recovery using carbon dioxide.

This spring, ARC commissioned a study of the existing major oil fields in Alberta, asking for a ranking of which were best suited for an enhanced-recovery effort. A field called Redwater was at the top of the list. Discovered six decades ago, Redwater is the biggest conventional oil discovery in Western Canada, and once a major source of production. Not any more.

With the field now far past its prime, Imperial Oil Ltd. (with partner ExxonMobil Canada) put it up for sale, along with similarly aging Pembina oil fields.

Its study in hand, ARC lunged at the chance to buy assets that the entire industry thinks are 30 years past their prime. "We were poised, we were ready," Mr. Dielwart says.

The rest of the oil patch may be convinced that Redwater is 96-per-cent empty, but he believes it just might be half-full -- with a prize of up to 600 million barrels of oil if ARC can find a way to use CO{-2} to boost recovery rates.

He's not worried that many peers disagree. In fact, he's counting on it as the foundation for his acquisition strategy. "The trick is, what more do you see? What can that property become? You've got to have a vision for what the asset can become."

At first glance, ARC seems to have won only the booby prize: The fields produce more water than oil -- 167 barrels of liquid have to be pumped to come up with one barrel of crude -- and the purchase price barely makes sense even at today's high commodity prices.

The study was the final touch in a strategy that ARC had been assembling for two years -- a direction it struck off in after striking out in the oil sands. A few years ago, the bitumen deposits of northern Alberta seemed a perfect fit for ARC's goal of obtaining long-lived reserves to lend stability to its production.

During that time, two things became clear to Mr. Dielwart. The first was that the rapid increase in commodity prices was pushing the prices of oil and gas wells so high that there was little chance of wringing extra value out of any conventional acquisition. The second was that CO{-2} technology could rewrite that equation in ARC's favour.

There was no thunderclap moment of realization, just the gradual accumulation of happenstance and experience that combined to create a new ambitious strategy.

First, the happenstance. In 1997, ARC acquired a small stake in one of the few CO{-2} projects in the world, in Weyburn, Sask. The trust made the investment to add to its production, but it ended up giving ARC a front-row seat on the evolution of CO{-2} technology. Equally serendipitous was the timing of Mr. Dielwart's tenure as chairman of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. He was plunged into the middle of the wrestling match with Ottawa over the Kyoto Protocol, forcing him to focus on the likelihood that the federal government would force companies to limit greenhouse gas emissions - making it much more likely that there would be a ready supply of CO{-2}.

Then came foresight born of experience. As oil prices have risen, much of the new supplies that have come on stream are heavy grades of crude oil. Prices for that type of oil have fallen, while lighter grades -- like the kind found in Redwater -- are much more profitable.

Taken together, the pattern was clear. The economics of an effort to wring more light oil out of an aging reservoir are about to change dramatically. "The planets are all aligning," Mr. Dielwart says.

The key was to find fields with the right geological characteristics, where ARC could turn its belief in the promise of CO{-2} into reality. Mr. Dielwart is convinced Redwater is that field.

This plan is more hype than hope. The CO2 maybe a liquid coming out of the pump but a depths where the oil is temps are way beyond the triple critical point of CO2 so it will be a high pressure gas. Using CO2 this way leaves nothing sequestered. True sequestration can only happen in a solid form such as charcoal from biomass or through cultivation of shellfish. The easiest way to sequester fossil carbon is to not take it to the surface in the first place.
tom deplume said

> way beyond the triple critical
> point of CO2 so it will be a high
> pressure gas

There is no such thing as a "critical triple point" - I think tom is mixing two concepts

Triple point = unique temperature and pressure at which solid, liquid and gas are in equilibrium (i.e. coexist). The triple point of carbon dioxide occurs at a pressure of 5.2 atm (3952 torr) and 216.6 K (-56.4oC).

Critical point = unique T and p at which liquid and gas phases are identical. The critical temperature for carbon dioxide is 31.1°C, and the critical pressure is 73 atm.

Critical conditions for CO2 are quite mild so it tends to exist as a single dense phase in the reservoir. This is GOOD news because it means that (in certain circumstances) there is zero interfacial tension between injected fluid and oil, so you get high displacement efficiency (no trapped oil). But there are lots of other things that can go wrong with a CO2 flood.

Above 31C carbon dioxide cannot exist as a liquid no matter what the pressure is.
tom deplume said

> The easiest way to sequester
> fossil carbon is to not take it
> to the surface in the first place.

Well, by tom's logic the carbon was well contained (as oil or gas in place) before it was produced. So putting it back in the same geological trap should keep it out of harms way long enough to give us some breathing space. The real problem with sequestration is not that it doesn't work. The problem is that it is so capital-intensive and location-specific.

Oil CEO, in a recent post, got me thinking when he said that tracking production is more important than tracking reserves. There is huge uncertainty about reserves and the last barrel will never be extracted (so why count every barrel).

I think what really matters is the growth of imports of the net importing countries and whether the net exports of the exporting countries can meet the demand in the years ahead. The UK will soon be a net importer so its production will no longer be material to any other country. We can ignore UK oil production in the same way we ignore internal consumption in OPEC. Only exports matter. (I'm a Brit by the way - sob)

So, I downloaded the Excel spreadsheet available on the BP web site, calculated net imports by country, then plotted the total net imports of countries that were net importers in 2004. Exports from countries that were net exporters in earlier years are included as negative imports.

Bad news. The chart shows an almost straight line of rising imports since 1984. There is NO slackening of demand - just the oposite in the last two years. 1990 (a recession year) was the only flat year.

I would love to post the chart on TOD but I don't know how to and don't have a web site to set up a link. Can anyone help? I could mail it to someone if they were brave enough to post a spaced-out e-mail address on TOD.

Yes, send it to this: oilceo[at]verizon.net. I'll consult before I post anything.
Deffeyes' new prediction:

By 2025, we're going to be back in the Stone Age.

He says his career is a prophet is over.  He's now  a historian.

Forgot the link. It's on his own page:


This is worth a thread of its own, if nothing else for his evaluation of what the priorities shouls now be.
Thanks for relaying this. I feel a little shocked by the 2025 statement.I remember in his book that he would not go the get guns route .I am also shocked only one response( TOD), YES  Liz, this deserves it's own thread. I have always thought electrictiy is more fragile than most seem to believe(except Duncan of Olduvail Theory). We had our lines replaced lately- they used a lot of energy.
I was rather surprised at Deffeyes' pessimism, too.  I haven't read his most recent book yet, but his first one, Hubbert's Peak, was the first peak oil book I ever read, and he seemed quite optimistic there.  He seemed to think we'd have a rough ten years or so, then transition to other energy sources and continue on our merry way.  (In fact, I thought that was the biggest weakness in the book: he sort of glossed over the thermodynamics issues of the alternatives).  

Back to the Stone Age by 2025 - that's even more pessimistic than Kunstler.  Wonder what happened to change his mind?

I don't know the technical aspects, but as I study this the modern techniques with rapid declines seem to not be adequately accounted for frequently.. I find myself thinking, "he is a geologist".   I skim read quickly his Beyond Oil, he has thought thru being able to walk to places he needs to be as I remember. I believe would remember a 2025 kind of projection. It is ironic he is retiring from predicting peak, to predict this.
Gosh some people never learn. I don't think apocalyptic scenarios/prediction help more than Daniel Yergin's hopeless optimism.
I'm worried by this "post" by Deffeyes.There is something "out of character" here. I'm not sure what it is. I've read carefully both 'Hubbert's Peak' and 'Beyond Oil.' Deffeyes has moved to icon status. But he's starting to sound like William S. Burroughs. "There is no place left to go - the theatre is closed."
He's always been pretty optimistic.  Pessimistic about how much oil we have left, but optimistic about how we would deal with the crisis when he hit.  He talked about wind power, solar, etc., not "back to the Stone Age."  I'd love to know why his view is suddenly so dark.  
Well, maybe he's apocalyptic because in the last five years the U.S. has been going backwards.  If the peak was last year it's too late to actually build the infrastructure for the alternatives, be they nuclear, coal, wind or whatever.  Plus it's obvious from the non-rebuilding after Katrina that our economy is no longer capable of fast responses that involve actually building things.  And that happened when we weren't in a recession.
Going backwards? Surely,you jest. If we are going backwards, what is China doing? Moving back in time? I think a more accurate account would be that we are moving forward but not as fast as we have in the past.
The process of capturing CO2 from natural gas power stations is wrong for a number of reasons.  First in the UK we are in a shortage of natural gas.  Industry is closing because they cannot afford the gas.  Building what is first and foremost a gas fired power station is silly if there is not enough fuel.  Second it must be inefficient to create such a complex power plant with its extra embodied energy, and the energy required to pump CO2 up to well pressures.  Third the CO2 is injected into oil wells in order to increase oil extraction, this extra oil will be burnt without CO2 capture, and so will cancel out any climate benefit. Fourthly it is a distraction from more sustainable technologies (like horses).
This has got to be one of the most idiotic proposals I've heard.  The process is exactly the same as the clean coal power plants, which means it will take the same amount of investment (billions).  But instead of using coal, which we have lots of, they want to use refinery residues, which we don't.  The sequestering using supercritical CO2 is a good idea, though.

Besides burning, pet coke is used to make electrodes, from big ones down to the one in flashlight batteries.  How toxic it is depends on the crude it comes from.