Energy Excursions

History of CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery in Texas

The Permian Basin, by far the most active CO2-enhanced oil recovery (EOR) region in the world, is located in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico (blue area on map).

SACROC Field in the Permian Basin

EOR using CO2 has been a successful commercial activity in the United States since 1972, when the technology was first applied in the Permian Basin, more specifically in SACROC Field, Texas.

Hollywood Oil Men

In 1949, William A. “Monty” Moncrief (Moncrief Oil) decided to drill in Texas and offered his golfing friends, Hollywood stars Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, a chance to partner with him, and they accepted.

The singing and dancing duo of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were initial investors in the SACROC discovery.

Successful Wells in Scurry County

After one dry hole, Moncrief Oil drilled 28 straight successful wells in Scurry County (red square on map), which turned into the billion-barrel SACROC (Scurry Area Canyon Reef Operators) field.1Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. (n.d.). Wm. A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. 1999. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from http://petroleummuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/MoncriefTex.pdf

Secondary Recovery

The field underwent secondary recovery starting in 1954, after reservoir pressure dropped below feasible levels for primary recovery. By the late 60s the amount of daily water injection required to maintain production levels began to grow precipitously.

Tertiary Recovery

The well-owners made a study of possible options for additional recovery methods and decided that CO2 injection was the most economically feasible. A contributing factor to this decision was the presence of several CO2-stripping plants at a gas well 200 miles south of the field. In 1969 the Texas Railroad Commission approved the CO2-injection plan and the project began in 1972. Since then, over 175 Mt of CO2 have been injected into the SACROC field. About half of that has remained trapped in the subsurface, while the rest is recaptured and recycled at the surface.

First Large-Scale CO2-injection Project

As the first ever large-scale CO2-injection project, the SACROC operation had to develop new technology to ensure the safe transport of CO2 to the well-site, building materials to withstand the unique physical and chemical properties of CO2, and best practices for injection to maximize oil production.

A Natural Laboratory

Many of these advancements are still in use today in the field of CO2-EOR and CCUS in general. And because the SACROC project is the longest running CO2-EOR operation in the Permian Basin, it has served as an ideal natural laboratory to study the long-term effects of subsurface CO2 storage.2Bureau of Economic Geology. (n.d.). SACROC Research Project. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from https://www.beg.utexas.edu/gccc/research/sacroc3Crameik, T. D., & Plassey, J. A. (1972, January). Carbon Dioxide Injection Project Sacroc Unit, Scurry County, Texas. In Annual Meeting Papers, Division of Production. American Petroleum Institute.

Permian Basin Production

The Permian Basin, the third largest oil producing region in the United States, has produced over 30 billion barrels of oil, out of which 1.3 billion have been produced with CO2.4Merchant, D. (2017, August). Enhanced Oil Recovery–the History of CO2 Conventional Wag Injection Techniques Developed from Lab in the 1950’s to 2017. In Carbon Management Technology Conference. Carbon Management Technology Conference.

Image Credits: US Department of Energy; “Bob Hope and Bing Crosby” by Film screenshot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; David Benbennick

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