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How can old oilfields be used for carbon capture?

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Introduction

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a crucial technology in the fight against climate change, as it can help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from large point sources such as power plants, refineries, and other industrial facilities. One potential application of CCS is the utilization of old oilfields for carbon capture. This article explores the possibilities and benefits of using old oilfields for carbon capture, as well as the challenges and technologies involved in the process.

Benefits of Using Old Oilfields for Carbon Capture

Old oilfields can be ideal for carbon sequestration due to several reasons:

  • Geological suitability: Old oilfields have proven geological formations that can safely store CO2. These formations have held oil and gas for millions of years, indicating their ability to contain CO2 as well.
  • Existing infrastructure: Repurposing old oilfields can lead to a more cost-efficient energy transition, as it allows for the reuse of existing infrastructure, such as wells, pipelines, and platforms.
  • Reduced seismic risk: Injecting CO2 into older oilfields is less likely to cause earthquakes compared to injecting it into newer oilfields.

Carbon Capture Technologies

There are several methods for capturing CO2, including post-combustion, pre-combustion, and oxyfuel combustion. Post-combustion technology separates CO2 from the flue gas after the fuel is burnt, while pre-combustion methods involve converting the fuel into a gas mixture consisting of hydrogen and CO2 before it is burnt. Oxy-fuel combustion involves burning the fuel in a mixture of oxygen and CO2, resulting in a flue gas that is primarily CO2 and water vapor.

Carbon Capture in Old Oilfields: Case Studies and Applications

  • CO2-enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR): Injecting CO2 into existing oil fields can boost oil recovery by increasing reservoir pressure and improving oil mobility. The Century and Petra Nova plants in Texas are two of the largest facilities using CO2 captured from anthropogenic sources for EOR.
  • CO2 storage: In some cases, CO2 can be injected into old oilfields for permanent storage without the expectation of recovering additional crude oil.

Challenges and Considerations

While old oilfields offer promising opportunities for carbon capture, there are several challenges and considerations to address:

  • Technical factors: Adapting upstream infrastructure for CO2 injection requires careful evaluation of key technical factors, such as reservoir pressure, injectivity, and containment.
  • Environmental impact: The repurposing of old oilfields for carbon capture should consider the potential environmental impacts, such as the release of residual hydrocarbons or the disturbance of established ecosystems.
  • Regulatory and policy frameworks: The development and deployment of carbon capture projects in old oilfields require supportive regulatory and policy frameworks to ensure their success.

Conclusion

Repurposing old oilfields for carbon capture presents a promising opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change. By leveraging existing infrastructure and geological formations, old oilfields can serve as effective sites for carbon capture and storage. However, it is essential to address the technical, environmental, and regulatory challenges associated with this approach to ensure its success in the long term.

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