Carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery, offshore North Sea: carbon accounting, residual oil zones and CO2 storage security
Stewart, Robert Jamie
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Carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2EOR) is a proven and available technology used to produce incremental oil from depleted fields. Although this technology has been used successfully onshore in North America and Europe, projects have maximised oil recovery and not CO2 storage. While the majority of onshore CO2EOR projects to date have used CO2 from natural sources, CO2EOR is now more and more being considered as a storage option for captured anthropogenic CO2. In the North Sea the lack of low cost CO2, in large volumes, has meant that no EOR projects have utilised CO2 as an injection fluid. However CO2EOR has the highest potential of all EOR techniques to maximise recovery from depleted UK oil fields. With the prospect of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) capturing large tonnages of CO2 from point source emission sites, the feasibility of CO2EOR deployment in the North Sea is high. This thesis primarily aims to address a number of discrete issues which assess the effectiveness of CO2EOR to both produce oil and store CO2. Given the fundamental shift in approach proposed in North Sea CO2EOR projects, the carbon balance of such projects is examined. Using a life cycle accounting approach on a theoretical North Sea field, we examine whether offshore CO2EOR can store more CO2 than onshore projects traditionally have, and whether CO2 storage can offset additional emissions produced through offshore operations and incremental oil production. Using two design scenarios which optimise oil production and CO2 storage, we find that that net GHG emissions were negative in both ‘oil optimised’ and ‘CO2 storage optimised’. However when emissions from transporting, refining and combusting the produced crude oil are incorporated into the life cycle calculations the ‘oil optimised scenario’ became a net emitter of GHG and highlights the importance of continuing CO2 import and injection after oil production has been maximised at a field. This is something that has not traditionally occurred. After assessing rates of flaring and venting of produced associated gas at UK oil fields it is found that the flaring or venting of reproduced CH4 and CO2 has a large control on emissions. Much like currently operating UK oil fields the rates of flaring and venting has a control on the carbon intensity of oil produced. Here values for the carbon intensity of oil produced through CO2EOR are presented. Carbon intensity values are found to be similar to levels of current UK oil production and significantly lower than other unconventional sources. As well as assessing the climate benefits of CO2EOR, a new assessment of CO2EOR potential in Residual Oil Zones (ROZ) is also made. ROZ resource, which is thought to add significant potential to both the oil reserves and CO2 storage potential in some US basins, is here identified in the North Sea for the first time. Based on the foundation of North Sea hydrodynamics study, this thesis identifies the Pierce field as a candidate ROZ field where hydrodynamic tilting of the oil water contact has naturally occurred leaving a zone of residual oil. To test the feasibility of CO2EOR in such a zone a methodology is presented and applied. Notably the study highlights that in this case study recoverable reserves from the ROZ may approach 20% of total field recoverable reserves and have the capability to store up to 11Mt of CO2. While highlighting the CO2EOR potential in the ROZ the thesis discusses the importance in expanding the analysis to quantify its importance on a basin scale. Discussion is also made on whether new resource identification is necessary in a mature basin like the North Sea. With CO2EOR being considered as a feasible option for storing captured anthropogenic CO2, it is important to assess the security of storage in CO2EOR. Using real geochemical and production data from a pilot CO2EOR development in Western Canada two approaches are used to assess the partitioning of CO2 between reservoir fluids through time. Using a number of correlations it is found that CO2 dissolution in oil is up to 7 times greater than in reservoir brine when saturations between the two fluids are equal. It is found that after two years of CO2 injection solubility trapping accounts for 26% of injected CO2. The finding that significantly more dissolution occurs in oil rather than brine indicates that CO2 storage in EOR is safer than in brine storage. However a number of factors such as the increase in oil/CO2 mobility due to CO2 injection is also discussed. The overall conclusion from the work is that CO2EOR in the North Sea has the potential to be an effective way of producing oil and storing CO2 in the North Sea. A number of design, operational and accounting factors are however essential to operate an exemplar CO2EOR project where low carbon intensity oil can be produced from a mature basin while storing large tonnages of captured anthropogenic CO2.