An exciting new future of large-scale carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery awaits Alberta's depleted oil fields. This paper presents the potential and how the necessary infrastructure could be developed. Such an infrastructure currently exists in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico, where over 1 billion scf/day of carbon dioxide is injected for enhanced oil recovery. A number of factors have come, or are coming, together to form the environment where a comparable infrastructure may be possible in Alberta. A scoping evaluation of carbon dioxide sources and locations, reservoir locations, potential oil recovery, and capital costs to develop the infrastructure is carried out. The factors leading to a large-scale carbon dioxide industry are compared to the factors in place during the 1970s and 1980s, when most of the hydrocarbon miscible floods were initiated in Alberta. Finally, conclusions are drawn regarding the viability of the infrastructure proposed in this paper.


Carbon dioxide (CO2), a simple molecule composed of one carbon and two oxygen atoms, has been the subject of interest by the oil industry for over twenty-five years. Original interest was in its potential for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). More recently that interest has been eclipsed by its perceived role in global climate change, and the potentially negative business and economic implications of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. A win-win situation could develop by constructing a province-wide infrastructure for CO2 collection and transmission that will address both interests: increased light oil recovery through EOR, and reduced CO2 emissions. Factors leading in this direction include:

  1. Declining reserves of light-medium oil. Alberta has enjoyed a long history of light oil production. However, new discoveries are not replacing production and reserves are declining, as illustrated in Figure 1. Current reserves are now approximately one third of proved reserves in 1977.

  2. Environmental issues related to CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. There is an increasing concern by the public and government about controlling CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. The government of Canada showed its concern on the subject by signing the Kyoto Accord, which, if ratified, will commit Canada to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 94% of 1990 levels by 2012.

  3. Buoyant natural gas markets. Use of natural gas in hydrocarbon miscible floods (HCMF) was feasible in the past due to lack of markets and low prices. Current markets and prices most likely preclude its use in miscible flooding.

  4. Application of a proven technology.

CO2 flooding has been used commercially since 1972 in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, when injection began into the SACROC and North Cross projects. (1) By early 1998 there were over 40 CO2 projects operating in the Permian Basin, with total CO2 injection of 1 billion scf/d and incremental production of 150 000 bbl/day. Factors that led to the success of CO2 in the Permian basin include:

  • well developed CO2 infrastructure,

  • high quality, high productivity CO2 sources,

  • large number of high quality fields amenable to CO2 flooding,

  • local expertise.

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