Trouble organizing enhanced oil recovery

Laramie, WY – The Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute at the University of Wyoming is trying to get small natural gas operations to work together to sell their waste carbon dioxide.

CO2 is a byproduct of natural gas recovery in Wyoming, and each day, Wyoming gas producers vent hundreds of millions of cubic feet of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, as waste.

Meanwhile, some oil producers want to buy CO2. They can use it to push oil out of oilfields by pumping it underground. In 2006, this technique was about 40% responsible for Wyoming's first increase in oil production in two decades. But only a handful of companies, Anadarko among them, actually do it. The director of the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, Jim Steidtmann, says that's because the technology is seriously expensive. "Anadarko," he says, "has told us that their electric bill to run the compressors to compress the CO2 to put it down in the ground is $760,000 a month."

Steidtmann says only large companies can currently afford to build CO2 pipelines and compressors. That's why he's trying to get small operations to band together to bring down the cost.