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U.S. Partners with Canada to Renew Funding for World's Largest International CO2 Storage Project in Depleted Oil Fields

July 20, 2010 - 1:00pm


Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Natural Resources Canada announced today a total of $5.2 million has been committed by the two governments to bring a benchmark carbon dioxide (CO2) injection project to successful conclusion in 2011.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and DOE will partner to renew funding for the International Energy Agency (IEA) Greenhouse Gas Weyburn-Midale CO2 Monitoring and Storage project. The renewed endorsements will allow the project's final phase to focus on best practices for the safe and permanent storage of CO2 with enhanced oil recovery (EOR), based on the culmination of a decade of research and dozens of studies by renowned international experts. DOE is providing $3 million in funding and the Government of Canada has committed $2.2 million.

"This project is an example of what we can accomplish when we leverage the technical expertise in both countries to deploy clean energy technologies," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "Working together, we have not only reduced carbon pollution, we have demonstrated that carbon capture and storage technology can play an important role in a clean energy future."

"These investments by Canada and the U.S. demonstrate our leadership and expertise in carbon capture and storage technology," said Christian Paradis, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources. "This collaborative, world-renowned carbon capture and storage project is reducing greenhouse gas emissions while demonstrating clean energy innovation."

Weyburn-Midale is conducted in conjunction with $2 billion of commercial CO2 injection operations, which have so far stored a record 18 million tonnes of CO2 into the Weyburn and Midale oil fields in Saskatchewan, Canada. Carbon dioxide injection is an important component of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The application of CCS to commercial power plants is seen by many experts as one of a portfolio of technologies that might be used for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping mitigate potential climate change. CCS is a primary focus of research conducted by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and its National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

Launched in 2000 by the Government of Canada, the Government of Saskatchewan, Cenovus Energy (formerly called Pan Canadian Petroleum and later EnCana ) and the Petroleum Technology Research Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan, Weyburn-Midale studies the geologic storage of CO2 in conjunction with EOR, a technology proven to increase oil yields from mature fields. In the United States, CO2 injection has already helped recover nearly 1.5 billion barrels of oil from mature oil fields, yet the technology has not been deployed widely. It is estimated that as much as 400 billion barrels of oil still remain trapped in the ground, and could be potentially recoverable utilizing EOR.

By injecting CO2 roughly 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) underground, operators at the Weyburn and Midale fields are able to force some of the remaining oil into wells where it is harvested, nearly tripling oil production. CO2 for injection comes from the Dakota Gasification Company's synfuels plant in Beulah, N.D. and is delivered via a 200-mile (320-kilometer) pipeline.

A projected 40 million tonnes of CO2 will be stored over the life of the EOR operations in the Weyburn and Midale oil fields. For the Weyburn oil field, 155 million additional barrels of oil are expected to be recovered by 2035 while storing 30 million tonnes of CO2 over the next 30 years. The adjacent Midale oil field is projected to store 10 million tonnes of CO2 while yielding an additional 60 million barrels of oil during 30 years of operation. In the two fields, the CO2 stored will be equal to taking nearly 9 million cars off the road for an entire year.

Weyburn-Midale represents the largest full-scale CCS field study ever conducted and has resulted in pioneering research, including studying the mile-deep seals that securely contain the CO2 reservoir, predicting the CO2 plume movement, and monitoring permanent storage.

Demonstrating CCS technologies is a top priority of President Obama's U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue. The Weyburn-Midale project - part of a multinational effort involving both public and private entities, including a U.S.-Canadian research team - is playing an important role by helping advance the science of large-scale CCS technology. Demonstrating CCS at large-scale facilities is considered an essential step before widespread commercial deployment can take place.

A model of international collaboration, the project has attracted 16 sponsors from government and industry that, aside from DOE and NRCan, include IEA, Alberta Innovates, Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources, Japan's Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, and 10 industry sponsors from Canada, the United States, the Middle East, and Europe.