Storage through CO2-EOR

Injecting CO2 into oil reservoirs to enhance oil production has been practiced on a commercial scale for more than 40 years.  Over the lifetime of an CO2-EOR operation, virtually all of the CO2 that is injected remains contained in the oil reservoir.  Because of this feature CO2-EOR allows reaping the economic benefits of  enhancing oil production while reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Even though the technology could be deployed globally, there are currently hardly any CO2-EOR projects outside of the United States. The majority of the US projects were established during the 1970s for the purpose of bolstering domestic oil production.

ccs recuperation

Current IEA work examines the role CO2-based enhanced oil recovery could play within efforts to reduce emissions to the atmosphere through capture and long-term geologic storage of CO2. The role of CO2–EOR to serve the dual purpose of enhancing oil recovery and maximising CO2 storage is explored on the basis of different assumptions underpinning the operation of CO2-EOR projects. Not only conventional business-as-usual CO2-EOR practices but also novel practices that aim to co-optimise oil revenue and storage are part of the analysis. The IEA works to provide answers to the following questions:

  • What is the technical and economic potential of CO2-EOR to enhance oil production and provide for CO2 storage?
  • What are the barriers that need to be overcome and which policy options are available to promote CO2-EOR as a storage option?

Insights paper

Storing CO2 through Enhanced Oil Recovery

Published: 3 November 2015

Carbon dioxide (CO2) has been used in commercial manner for decades to increase recovery from oil fields in a process called "CO2-enhanced oil recovery" or CO2-EOR. Harnessing this practice to qualify as permanent storage of CO2 is possible, but requires a major paradigm shift from conventional EOR to "EOR+", including additional activities. These activities will drive additional cost.

However, analysis of a hypothetical, representative oil field demonstrates that EOR+ can under the right conditions be more profitable than traditional EOR. This, however, requires that, in addition to the benefit that comes from additional oil production, the EOR+ operator receives a benefit from storing CO2.

In aggregate, EOR+ offers a significant prize. Up to 375 Bbbl of additional oil could be produced from suitable fields across the globe. Between 60 and 240 gigatonnes of CO2 could be stored underground in the process.

Our work on Carbon capture and storage