LSU professor proposes plan to create less CO2 during oil production

Oil drilling has had its fair share of controversy as of late, leaving engineers trying to determine how to keep fossil fuels in play while considering environmentally-friendly solutions. LSU Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering Professor Dandina Rao has a plan that will not only create less carbon dioxide during oil production but will also make use of the millions of orphan wells that are scattered throughout the United States.

Rao’s proposed pilot project recently received a grant from LSU’s LIFT2 (Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer) program, which moves innovative concepts closer to commercialization. His LIFT2 project would initially convert orphan wells to carbon-neutral production wells through GAGD-process adaptation.

GAGD stands for Gas-Assisted Gravity Drainage, an oil recovery process that has environmental benefits since it sequesters the CO2, or the flue gas. The GAGD process yields 65-95% of the original oil in place compared to other oil recovery methods, such as Conventional Gas Injection, which yield just 5-15% and use large volumes of CO2.

This LIFT2 project proposes to test the GAGD process in the field using orphan wells, which are oil wells that have been abandoned by companies for various reasons. Currently, there are 131,277 documented orphan wells in the United States. However, the U.S. Department of the Interior estimates there are 3.5 million nationwide that are undocumented. Louisiana has 4,601 of those, most of which are in the northwest corner of the state in Caddo and Union Parishes.

Another added benefit of this project, according to Rao, is getting Louisiana’s oil production trending upward again. From 1980 to 2020, oil production in the state has gone down from 200 million bbls per year to 40 million bbls per year.

Tags: CO2, LIFT2, LSU, Oil Production