• How Does Negative-Carbon Oil Work?

How Does Negative-Carbon Oil Work?

Sep 10 2018 Read 658 Times

Crowned one of the USA's most environmentally friendly states, California is serious about slashing emissions and improving air quality. Now, the Golden State is raising the bar and developing a protocol to actively recognise and reward the use of CO2 to enhance oil recovery during fossil-fuel drilling operations, followed by the deposition of the trace gas permanently underground. It's an exciting alternative to the widely used steam injection method, offering both increased efficiency and value for money.  

"We are hopeful that we’ll get to something around zero-emission or negative-emission oil in many of the fields in California," asserts Ken Alex, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. "They’re geologically suited for carbon capture," he said in a recent webinar hosted by the Security and Sustainability Forum. "So that is being explored in the regulatory domain."

California pushes to approve CO2 enhanced oil recovery

The protocol is being fast-tracked and funded by the California Air Resources Board, which oversees the state's carbon cap and trade agenda. While CO2-powered enhanced oil recovery method isn't currently approved as a carbon offset in California, the board is in the process of developing a regulation that will grant it official status.

"Staff is planning to develop a QM [quantification methodology] that would properly account for the CO2 emissions sequestered by CCS, and a permanence protocol that would establish the requirements for permanence for CO2 sequestration," reads a concept paper document released by the board last year.

Oil drilling could emerge as negative-carbon activity

While the regulation is designed to improve California's eco-friendly credentials, the method has received its fair share of disapproval, with critics claiming the enhanced-oil recovery method encourages the ongoing use of fossil fuels which will ultimately result in more carbon emissions as they're used.

Bill Brown, CEO of US energy start-up NetPower disagrees, maintaining that for every carbon atom extracted as oil, two are discarded into the earth as compressed CO2. According to this equation, oil drilling could emerge as not only a zero-carbon activity, but a negative-carbon activity.

As the world starts to phase out fossil fuels, eco-friendly energy alternatives like electric cars are landing in the spotlight. For a closer look at the challenges associated with powering EVs, aeroplanes and handheld electronics don't miss 'Risks and side effects: The underestimated dangers of lithium-ion batteries', which introduces nickel metal hydride as a safer, more efficient alternative.  

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