Evaluating the climate benefits of CO2-enhanced oil recovery using life cycle analysis.

Research paper by Gregory G Cooney, James J Littlefield, Joe J Marriott, Timothy J TJ Skone

Indexed on: 21 May '15Published on: 21 May '15Published in: Environmental Science & Technology


This study uses life cycle analysis (LCA) to evaluate the greenhouse gas (GHG) performance of carbon dioxide (CO2) enhanced oil recovery (EOR) systems. A detailed gate-to-gate LCA model of EOR was developed and incorporated into a cradle-to-grave boundary with a functional unit of 1 MJ of combusted gasoline. The cradle-to-grave model includes two sources of CO2: natural domes and anthropogenic (fossil power equipped with carbon capture). A critical parameter is the crude recovery ratio, which describes how much crude is recovered for a fixed amount of purchased CO2. When CO2 is sourced from a natural dome, increasing the crude recovery ratio decreases emissions, the opposite is true for anthropogenic CO2. When the CO2 is sourced from a power plant, the electricity coproduct is assumed to displace existing power. With anthropogenic CO2, increasing the crude recovery ratio reduces the amount of CO2 required, thereby reducing the amount of power displaced and the corresponding credit. Only the anthropogenic EOR cases result in emissions lower than conventionally produced crude. This is not specific to EOR, rather the fact that carbon-intensive electricity is being displaced with captured electricity, and the fuel produced from that system receives a credit for this displacement.