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Universities to Examine CO2 Injections for North Sea Oil

Oil rig in the North Sea (Crawfish Head/Flickr)

Oil rig in the North Sea (Crawfish Head/Flickr)

Geoscientists at University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, with the British Geological Survey, will examine the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) to recover more oil from North Sea wells, while storing the CO2 underground. The program, called Centre for North Sea Enhanced Oil Recovery with CO2 (CENSEOR-CO2) aims to unlock three billion barrels of hard-to-reach oil from the North Sea — valued at £190 billion ($US 299 billion) — while accelerating development of carbon capture and storage, to reduce green house gas emissions.

CENSEOR-CO2, based in Edinburgh, will investigate the technical, regulatory, social, and economic issues of accelerating the deployment of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery technology across the North Sea. The program is funded by the Scottish government, the business development agency Scottish Enterprise, and the carbon capture and storage company 2Co Energy in London.

Edinburgh geosciences professor Stuart Haszeldine, who will lead CENSEOR-CO2, says “Our research will provide an independent voice to establish the conditions by which CO2 [enhanced oil recovery] can be made environmentally, commercially, and technically feasible in the North Sea.

Enhanced oil recovery is used frequently in North America to extract more oil from older wells, but is less well known in the U.K. The CENSEOR-CO2 researchers will examine the use of CO2 injected into North Sea wells as an enhanced oil recovery technique, forcing out additional oil while keeping the CO2 permanently stored deep underground.

The CO2 for oil recovery is expected to be captured from power plants in the U.K., where it will be transported to the wells. CENSEOR-CO2 estimates the wells could store 75 metric tons of CO2 from each power plant, where after injecting into the wells, increase their production by 5 to 25 percent.

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Photo: Crawfish Head/Flickr

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