Oil Field Stores Greenhouse Gas Underground

REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN-In an effort to keep carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere, the Weyburn oil field in Saskatchewan will become the world’s newest site for storing CO2 underground, according to the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments.

A long time producer of oil, the field has less than 20 percent of its recoverable reserves left. To reclaim the remaining oil, PanCanadian Petroleum has been pumping CO2 into the oil bearing formation since 1997. Carbon dioxide helps separate crude oil from the porous rock.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol set legally binding greenhouse gas emission targets for 39 industrialized countries. Finding a way to store CO2 is being study by numerous industries, including the power generation industry. The Kyoto Protocol is a United Nations agreement that commits countries to dealing with climate change.

According to the Protocol, countries must reduce their emissions or compensate for them by trapping CO2. To effectively trap the CO2, it has to be placed in locations where it cannot enter the atmosphere to trap the Sun’s heat and contribute to global warming.

Some of the options governments and industries are looking at to control CO2 are planting new forests, sequestering CO2 beneath the ocean or storing it underground.

Saskatchewan Energy and Mines Minister Eldon Lautermilch recently indicated that the lessons learned at the Weyburn oil field will set the standards for the verification of CO2 storage as an economical way to reduce emissions.

By injecting the CO2, the Weyburn field will yield an additional 120 million barrels of oil. To do this, approximately 5,000 tons of CO2 per day will be injected into a reservoir during the first phase of field development in Weyburn. This phase represents about 25 percent of the field area designated for CO2 flooding and is the focus of the monitoring project. The field will be monitored for reactions of the CO2 gas with the minerals and fluids in the reservoir.

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