Enhanced recovery


What the industry needs at this stage is a willingness to work together, share best practices, conduct innovative research, and focus on disruptive technologies that lower cost of capture and make our operations more sustainable.


During the past 12 months, CO2 has taken center stage in global political debates and climate-change dialogues. Countries and companies are coming under intense pressure to find sustainable solutions to address the issue of carbon footprint by reducing CO2 emissions.

In May of last year, 2019 SPE President Sami Alnuaim wrote a JPT article on the circular economy. The essence was on sustainability through efficiency, conservation, recycling, and reusing to minimize our impacts. While he was addressing the broader picture, I want to focus this article on the circular carbon economy. The circular carbon economy, which is not new, is a framework in which emissions of carbon from all sectors of the economy (including oil and gas) can be addressed through the four R pillars: reduce, recycle, reuse, and remove.

We in the oil and gas industry can work collaboratively with governments, ­companies, academia, and other organizations on these four pillars. For example, energy efficiency can be improved across the entire chain of operations, flaring can be reduced to near zero, and investments can be made into high-efficiency technologies that reduce the carbon footprint.

For the recycle and reduce pillars, CO2 can be converted into useful products such as methanol or used for well stimulation or conformance control, for example. And the biggest impact can be made with the removal of CO2 ­permanently from the atmosphere by capturing and storing it. Two examples are storage in subterranean formations and mineralization in cements, rocks, or other materials. We need to look for (or create) appropriate business opportunities that will reduce our impact on the environment and reduce our carbon footprint and intensity.

The papers that follow are examples of these four R pillars. One describes some promising pathways to lower atmospheric carbon through a practical and holistic approach. Another is the harvesting of energy from waste heat (improving efficiency) during oil and gas operations using supercritical CO2. The third is an example of using CO2 in place of water for fracturing operations. Many other opportunities can be adopted, and a business case can be made for them. What the industry needs at this stage is a willingness to work together, share best practices, conduct innovative research, and focus on technologies that lower cost of capture and make our operations more sustainable.

This Month's Technical Papers

Novel Solutions to Atmospheric Carbon Maintain Advantages of Petroleum

Supercritical CO2 Heat Recovery System Finds Application in Oil and Gas Operations

New Closed Blender Reduces Footprint, Gasification of CO2 in Waterless Fracturing

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 195378 CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery and Carbon Storage in Indian Oilfields: From Laboratory Study to Pilot Design by Peila Chen, University of Houston, et al.

SPE 195715 ACORN: A Northeast Response To Evolve and Thrive Through Decarbonization by David Mackinnon, Total, et al.

SPE 195964 Permanent Storage of CO2 in Mexican Igneous Rocks by Erick Cantú-Apodaca, National Autonomous University of Mexico, et al.

Sunil Kokal, SPE, is a principal professional and a focus area champion of EOR in the Reservoir Engineering Technology team of the EXPEC/Advanced Research Center at Saudi Aramco in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. During the past 30 years, he has been involved in applied-research projects on EOR, reservoir fluids, hydrocarbon phase behavior, crude-oil emulsions, and production-related challenges. Currently, Kokal is leading a group of scientists, engineers, and technicians to develop a program for CO2 EOR and conduct appropriate studies and field demonstration projects. He has written more than 150 technical papers and has authored two chapters for the SPE Petroleum Engineering Handbook. Kokal has served as associate editor for the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering and for the SPE Reservoir Evaluation and Engineering journal. He is an Honorary Member of SPE and the recipient of the 2018 IOR Pioneer Award, the 2012 SPE DeGolyer Distinguished Service Medal, the 2011 SPE Distinguished Service Award, and the 2010 SPE Regional Technical Award for Reservoir Description and Dynamics. Kokal also served as an SPE Distinguished Lecturer during 2007–08. He holds a PhD degree in chemical engineering from the University of Calgary and a BS degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi. Kokal is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee.