2020 Underground Injection Control Conference

The 2020 Underground Injection Control Conference was held under the auspices of the US Groundwater Protection Council in San Antonio, Texas earlier this year. A new tax regime in the USA is designed to encourage carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) with perhaps more of an emphasis on the use of CO2 in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) than is seen in other jurisdictions where the simple ‘sequestration’ of the greenhouse gas is an end in itself. ExxonMobil/Texas RRC on the need for ‘widespread CCUS deployment’. NETL on the ‘SMART’ initiative (science-informed machine learning to accelerate real-time decisions in subsurface applications). DNV GL on QA of CO2 storage. The DOE’s water security grand challenge. Advanced Resources International (ARI) on the CO2 SRMS, storage resource management system. ARI on turning CO2-EOR into ‘carbon-negative oil’.

Susan Blevins (ExxonMobil) and Leslie Savage (Texas Railroad Commission) speaking on behalf of the National Petroleum Council (NPC) described how the ‘dual challenge’, of providing affordable and reliable energy, while addressing the risks of climate change, is to be met. Following a 2017 request from the Secretary of Energy, the NPC has conducted a study into the potential pathways for integrating CCUS at scale into the energy and industrial marketplace. The study found, inter alia, that ‘widespread CCUS deployment is essential to meeting the dual challenge at the lowest cost’ and that ‘CCUS can favorably position the United States in new market opportunities as the world transitions to a lower CO2 intensive energy system’. The report recommends amendments to Section 45Q of the US tax code to simplify CCUS rules and make the activity economic. The NPC argues that CCUS deployment at scale will mean moving from 25 to 500 million tonnes per annum of capacity, involving a $680 billion investment. Read the Roadmap to at-scale deployment of carbon capture, use and storage on the NPC minisite.

Grant Bromhal presented the NETL-hosted SMART initiative, a.k.a. ‘science-informed machine learning to accelerate real-time decisions in subsurface applications’. Machine learning can transform subsurface operations and improve and extend traditional science-based prediction. SMART combines field data (drilling) plus fundamental theoretical and laboratory studies (shale) with a data-driven approach using deep neural nets. The aim is to transform reservoir management with ‘dramatic improvements’ in subsurface visualization, exploiting ML to achieve speed and enhance detail. The new approach aims at optimizing CO2 injection and brine production across multiple wells to maximize storage and minimize the pressure plume. More from the NETL. The SMART program is described in a 2019 report from Carnegie Mellon.

Jørg Aarnes presented DNV GL’s work on the quality assurance of CO2 storage and on verification of such facilities against ISO 27914:2017. The ISO best practice report incorporates learnings since 1990 from projects including Sleipner, In Salah, Snøhvit, QUEST, Illinois and Gorgon. Note that the standard applies to injection of CO2 into geologic units for the purpose of storage (sequestration) and does not apply to CO2 storage in conjunction with enhanced hydrocarbon recovery. DNV GL-SE-0473 is a certification framework that verifies conformity with ISO 27914 across a project lifecycle.

Shawn Bennett from the Office of Oil and Natural Gas described the DOE Water Security Grand Challenge. Here the DOE, USGS and EPA are partnering to transform produced water from a waste to a resource. The project has resulted in the risk-based data management system (RBDMS), an integrated suite of tools for managing oil and gas regulatory data. The RBDMS was launched in 1992. Today, North Dakota is undertaking a major system upgrade, ‘NorthSTAR’, adapting innovations previously developed for California WellSTAR. A Texas ‘LoneSTAR’ is under development. More from the DoE.

Scott Frailey (Advanced Resources International) presented the CO2 Storage Resource Management System (SRMS), a classification system for CO2 storage sites that derives from the SPE’s Petroleum Resources Management System (PRMS). The SRMS represents a project maturity-based classification and categorization of storable quantities. The classification provides standardized terminology and definitions similar to the familiar resource assessment methodology of the PRMS.

Michael Godec (also with ARI) asked rhetorically if CO2-EOR is a niche or a robust carbon management strategy. The US conventional oil in-place endowment is 624 billion barrels. Primary recovery and water flooding have recovered about a third of this oil endowment, leaving behind 414 billion barrels. Much of which is technically favorable for CO2-EOR. Enter ‘next generation’ CO2 EOR driven by enhancements to IRC Section 45Q tax code that resulted from the bipartisan budget act of 2018. This, inter alia, eliminates the old 75 million metric ton cap for new facilities that break ground by year end 2023. The new code provides subsidies of $50/mt for geologic storage and $35/mt for EOR and more support for a CO2 pipeline infrastructure. The next generation initiative seeks to transform CO2-EOR into ‘carbon negative oil’. Previous life-cycle analyses of CO2-EOR do not represent the state of the art in technology and fail to account for the emerging paradigm where CO2 storage is a co-objective. The next generation initiative is backed by the Helen MacArthur Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and Spitzer Charitable Trust.

Read the proceedings from the conference website.

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