Carbon Management Opportunities in the Permian Basin:
A Look at Both Evolving Policies and Optimal Reservoir Targets
Presented by L. Stephen Melzer at the January Meeting of the Permian Basin Section-SEPM
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
ABSTRACT: Carbon Management has shifted from a politically charged, controversial objective to what some are now calling an International imperative. The move to reduce the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial facilities has focused first on coal and is moving toward oil and natural gas. No doubt the job of replacing hydrocarbon fuels will be difficult, time consuming, and challenged with economic sustainability, but has reached a level where all of society will need to respond. Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) should begin to play a very large role and the Permian Basin is well positioned to affect both the speed of greenhouse gas capture and the ultimate security of storage.
Establishing a penalty price on carbon emissions has already entered into the discussion with programs such as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Emission Trading Credits, and the 45Q Tax Credit in the U.S. Deployment of CO2 EOR for producing low carbon oil while storing CO2 is clearly an important short-term bridge for larger scale carbon capture and storage as a waste product. The volume of pore space for CO2 storage is enormous in the San Andres formation alone – both in the mature fields and within the brownfield and greenfield residual oil zones (ROZs) so common to that formation. CO2 EOR has shown that capturing and transporting the pre-emission CO2 is clearly passed beyond a technical obstacle and the challenges lie now in the economic project thresholds and scales of deployment.
The ROZs can be thought of as hybrid deep saline reservoirs with the capability to produce some lower carbon oil to offset costs of industrial CO2 capture projects. Regulations for that industry are in-place and already being utilized in main pay zones and in the ROZs.
ROZ research in the San Andres formation has serendipitously discovered an explanation of the origins of mixed- and fully oil-wet reservoirs. The knowledge has recently been extended to clastic reservoirs as well. Biogeochemical processes are at the heart of the new discovery and explaining long-puzzling aspects of levels of residual oil saturations in the hybrid deep saline reservoirs.