CO2 for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR)

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

CO2 for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) is a technique that utilizes carbon dioxide (CO2) to extract additional oil from mature oil reservoirs. Instead of releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, it’s injected into oil wells, boosting pressure and improving oil flow, effectively increasing oil production while simultaneously storing CO2 underground. This approach offers a dual benefit by capturing and storing CO2 emissions, mitigating their contribution to climate change, and extending the lifespan of existing oil fields.

Impact on climate action

Using CO2 for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) under the theme C2V – CO2 to Value can significantly impact climate action. It enables CO2 capture from industrial processes, reducing emissions, while simultaneously increasing oil production efficiency. This innovative approach fosters a dual benefit by mitigating greenhouse gases and optimizing resource utilization.


EOR relies on several key concepts and technologies:

  • CO2 Injection: CO2 is injected into the oil reservoir, where it mixes with the oil, reducing its viscosity and improving its flow characteristics.
  • Miscibility and Displacement: At certain pressures and temperatures, CO2 becomes miscible with the oil, meaning it mixes completely, effectively displacing the oil and pushing it towards production wells.
  • Pressure Maintenance: Injecting CO2 maintains reservoir pressure, which can decline over time as oil is extracted. This sustained pressure ensures continued oil production.
  • Geological Storage: The injected CO2 can be permanently stored in the geological formations of the depleted oil reservoir, preventing its release into the atmosphere.

TRL : 8-9

Prominent Innovation themes

  • CO2 Source Optimization: Research focuses on identifying and utilizing various sources of CO2, including industrial emissions and direct air capture, to minimize the environmental impact of the process.
  • Improved Injection Strategies: Scientists are developing optimized injection strategies, such as alternating CO2 injection with water injection, to maximize oil recovery and CO2 storage efficiency.
  • Monitoring and Verification Technologies: Advanced monitoring and verification technologies are being used to track CO2 movement and storage within the reservoir, ensuring safe and effective CO2 sequestration.
  • Nanofluid-Based CO2-EOR: Injecting nanofluids alongside CO2 can further enhance oil recovery by improving the CO2’s sweep efficiency and reducing interfacial tension between the oil and CO2.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Carbon Dioxide Utilization in Oil Extraction
  • Miscibility Enhancement Techniques
  • Pressure Maintenance Strategies
  • Geological Carbon Storage Solutions
  • Diversification of CO2 Sources
  • Optimization of Injection Methods
  • Alternating Injection Approaches
  • Enhanced Oil Recovery Efficiency
  • CO2 Movement Monitoring Technologies
  • Verification of CO2 Sequestration
  • Nanofluid Integration in EOR
  • Sweep Efficiency Improvement
  • Interfacial Tension Reduction Techniques
  • Water Injection Strategies
  • Advanced Reservoir Monitoring
  • CO2 Sweep Efficiency Enhancement

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Denbury Resources:
    • Technology Focus: Denbury Resources specializes in carbon dioxide (CO2) enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques. They use CO2 captured from natural underground sources or industrial processes to inject into oil reservoirs, thereby increasing oil production.
    • Uniqueness: Denbury Resources may stand out for its expertise in CO2-based EOR methods, including the identification of suitable reservoirs, CO2 capture and injection techniques, and project management for enhanced oil recovery operations.
    • End-User Segments: Their primary customers are likely oil and gas companies with mature oil fields suitable for CO2-based EOR, seeking to maximize oil recovery from existing assets while reducing environmental impact through CO2 utilization.
  • Occidental Petroleum:
    • Technology Focus: Occidental Petroleum is likely engaged in CO2-based EOR technologies, leveraging their expertise in oil and gas exploration and production. They may have developed proprietary methods for CO2 capture, transportation, and injection to enhance oil recovery.
    • Uniqueness: Occidental Petroleum may differentiate itself through its extensive experience in large-scale EOR projects, innovative CO2 capture technologies, and strategic partnerships for sourcing and transporting CO2 to oil fields.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include oil and gas operators with mature fields suitable for CO2-based EOR, as well as industries involved in CO2 capture and transportation, such as power generation and industrial manufacturing.
  • Petra Nova:
    • Technology Focus: Petra Nova is known for its Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project, which captures CO2 emissions from a coal-fired power plant and utilizes the captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery in nearby oil fields.
    • Uniqueness: Petra Nova is unique in its integrated approach to carbon capture and utilization (CCU) and EOR, demonstrating the feasibility of CO2 utilization for enhanced oil recovery while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from power generation.
    • End-User Segments: Their project targets coal-fired power plants seeking to reduce their carbon footprint through carbon capture and utilization, as well as oil and gas companies interested in deploying CO2-based EOR techniques to increase oil production.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of Texas at Austin:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are pioneering advanced CO2 capture and utilization technologies tailored specifically for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). They are developing innovative techniques to capture CO2 emissions from industrial sources and repurpose them for injection into oil reservoirs to enhance oil recovery.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The research at UT Austin involves the integration of geological modeling, reservoir engineering, and chemical engineering to optimize the utilization of CO2 for EOR. They are exploring novel injection strategies and reservoir monitoring techniques to maximize oil production while minimizing environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The application of CO2 for EOR at UT Austin has significant implications for the oil and gas industry. By utilizing CO2 as a miscible flooding agent, companies can increase oil recovery rates from mature reservoirs, prolonging the productive life of oil fields and maximizing the value of existing assets.
  • Stanford University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Stanford University researchers are focusing on developing next-generation CO2 capture technologies with improved efficiency and scalability for EOR applications. They are exploring novel materials and processes for capturing CO2 from flue gases and industrial sources, as well as techniques for transporting and injecting CO2 into oil reservoirs.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Stanford’s research involves a multidisciplinary approach that combines expertise in materials science, chemical engineering, and geosciences. They are investigating advanced sorbents, membranes, and catalytic systems for CO2 capture and conversion, as well as modeling the behavior of CO2 in subsurface reservoirs.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Stanford University has broad implications for the energy industry, particularly in the transition to low-carbon and carbon-neutral energy systems. By enabling the efficient utilization of CO2 for EOR, companies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously increasing domestic oil production and energy security.
  • Imperial College London:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Imperial College London are focusing on developing integrated CO2 capture, transportation, and utilization systems optimized for EOR applications. They are investigating the use of novel solvents, adsorbents, and membrane technologies for capturing and purifying CO2 from industrial flue gases and natural gas streams.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Imperial College’s research involves a systems engineering approach to CO2 utilization for EOR, considering the entire value chain from capture to injection. They are evaluating the techno-economic feasibility and environmental sustainability of different CO2 utilization pathways, taking into account factors such as energy consumption, capital costs, and lifecycle emissions.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Imperial College London has significant implications for the oil and gas industry, as well as for climate change mitigation efforts. By harnessing CO2 for EOR, companies can offset their carbon emissions while enhancing oil recovery and generating additional revenue streams from existing assets.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

CO2-EOR is a commercially proven technology with numerous projects in operation worldwide.

  • Denbury Resources: Operates multiple CO2 pipelines and EOR projects in the U.S., injecting and storing millions of tons of CO2 annually.
  • Occidental Petroleum: Utilizes CO2-EOR in its Permian Basin operations and is planning to build a large-scale DAC facility to further enhance its CO2 supply for EOR.
  • Global CCS Institute: This international organization tracks and reports on global CCS projects, including CO2-EOR, with over 100 projects currently in operation or under development.