Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) Using CO2

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) refers to a suite of techniques used to extract additional oil from reservoirs that have already undergone primary and secondary recovery methods. These methods typically involve injecting fluids, such as water, gas, or chemicals, into the reservoir to improve oil mobility and displace it towards production wells. CO2-EOR specifically utilizes captured carbon dioxide as the injection fluid, offering the dual benefit of enhanced oil production and carbon sequestration.

Impact on climate action

Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) within CO2 Capture & Storage can significantly impact climate action by repurposing captured CO2 to extract more oil. While boosting oil production, it concurrently sequesters CO2 underground, mitigating emissions. However, EOR’s net effect on climate depends on its scale, efficiency, and broader energy transition efforts.


CO2-EOR harnesses several scientific principles and technological advancements:

  • CO2 Miscibility: When injected into an oil reservoir, CO2 mixes with the oil, reducing its viscosity and interfacial tension, making it easier to flow towards production wells.
  • CO2 Swelling Effect: CO2 expands the volume of oil, further enhancing its mobility and improving recovery rates.
  • CO2 Density and Displacement: CO2 is denser than many reservoir gases, enabling it to effectively displace oil towards production wells.
  • CO2 Solubility Trapping: A portion of the injected CO2 dissolves in the formation water and oil, becoming trapped within the reservoir and preventing its release to the atmosphere.
  • CO2 Mineral Trapping: Over time, some CO2 reacts with minerals in the reservoir rock, forming stable carbonates, which permanently sequester CO2.

TRL : 8-9 (CO2-EOR is a mature technology with extensive commercial deployment).

Prominent Innovation themes

  • CO2 Foam Flooding: Injecting CO2 as a foam can improve its sweep efficiency and reduce the amount of CO2 required for injection, enhancing cost-effectiveness.
  • Nanotechnology-Enhanced CO2 Flooding: Nanoparticles can be used to improve the flow properties of CO2, increasing its displacement efficiency within the reservoir.
  • Smart Monitoring and Control Systems: Sensors and data analytics are being integrated into CO2-EOR operations to optimize injection strategies, monitor CO2 distribution, and ensure safe and efficient storage.
  • CO2 Capture from Industrial Sources: EOR projects are increasingly sourcing CO2 from nearby industrial facilities, reducing emissions from those sources while simultaneously benefiting from CO2 for oil recovery.
  • Hybrid EOR Techniques: Combining CO2 injection with other EOR methods, such as water flooding or chemical injection, can further optimize recovery rates and maximize CO2 storage potential.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • CO2 Miscibility Enhancement
  • CO2 Swelling Effect Utilization
  • Dense CO2 Displacement Strategies
  • CO2 Solubility Trapping Mechanisms
  • CO2 Foam Flooding Optimization
  • Nanotechnology in CO2 Flooding
  • Smart Monitoring Systems Integration
  • Data Analytics for CO2-EOR
  • Hybrid EOR Methodologies
  • CO2-Water Flooding Synergy
  • Chemical Injection Enhancements
  • Cost-Effective CO2-EOR Solutions
  • Environmental Impact Reduction Strategies
  • Sustainable CO2-EOR Practices

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Denbury Resources:
    • Technology Focus: Denbury Resources specializes in EOR techniques, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) enhanced oil recovery. They employ advanced methods to inject CO2 into mature oil fields, enhancing oil recovery rates.
    • Uniqueness: Denbury’s uniqueness lies in its expertise in CO2-based EOR technologies and its focus on optimizing oil recovery from mature fields, often considered less economically viable.
    • End-User Segments: Their primary end-users are oil and gas companies with mature oil fields, seeking to maximize the extraction of remaining reserves using advanced EOR techniques.
  • Occidental Petroleum:
    • Technology Focus: Occidental Petroleum is a major player in the oil and gas industry, with a focus on various EOR technologies such as steam injection, chemical injection, and CO2 flooding.
    • Uniqueness: Occidental stands out for its extensive experience in implementing diverse EOR techniques across different geological formations and reservoir types.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions cater to oil and gas companies globally, particularly those operating in mature fields or facing declining production rates, seeking to boost recovery and extend the life of their assets.
  • Enhanced Oil Resources:
    • Technology Focus: Enhanced Oil Resources, as the name suggests, likely specializes solely in EOR technologies and solutions. Their focus could be on developing innovative approaches to enhance oil recovery rates from existing reservoirs.
    • Uniqueness: Enhanced Oil Resources may differentiate itself through proprietary EOR technologies or novel applications of existing techniques, aiming to offer cost-effective solutions for maximizing oil production.
    • End-User Segments: Their target customers would include oil and gas operators, particularly those with mature fields or unconventional reservoirs, looking to improve recovery factors and optimize production economics.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of Texas at Austin:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are working on novel techniques to enhance CO2 capture and storage efficiency in EOR applications. They are developing advanced materials for CO2 capture, such as porous sorbents and membranes, and optimizing injection strategies to maximize CO2 utilization and oil recovery.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Texas at Austin’s approach involves a comprehensive analysis of the geophysical, chemical, and engineering aspects of CO2-EOR operations. They are exploring innovative reservoir modeling techniques and monitoring technologies to improve the predictability and performance of CO2 injection projects.
    • End-use Applications: The research at the University of Texas at Austin has direct implications for the oil and gas industry, particularly in revitalizing mature oil fields and increasing hydrocarbon production. By deploying advanced CO2-EOR technologies, companies can extract additional oil reserves while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions through carbon capture and storage.
  • Stanford University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Stanford University researchers are focusing on developing next-generation CO2-EOR technologies that utilize nanomaterials and smart injection strategies. They are exploring the use of nanocatalysts and surfactants to improve CO2 dispersion and mobility control in reservoirs, thereby enhancing oil recovery efficiency.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Stanford’s approach integrates principles of nanotechnology and chemical engineering to address the challenges associated with CO2-EOR, such as poor sweep efficiency and reservoir heterogeneity. They are pioneering new techniques for in-situ characterization of reservoir fluids and rock properties to optimize CO2 injection and displacement processes.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Stanford University has broad applications in the energy industry, including conventional oil and unconventional resource development. By developing innovative CO2-EOR technologies, companies can unlock previously inaccessible oil reserves and mitigate the environmental impact of fossil fuel extraction through carbon sequestration.
  • Imperial College London:
    • Technology Enhancements: Imperial College London researchers are focusing on developing integrated CO2-EOR solutions that leverage advanced reservoir simulation, monitoring, and control technologies. They are investigating the use of machine learning and data analytics to optimize CO2 injection rates and well placement for maximum oil recovery.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Imperial College’s approach involves a multidisciplinary approach that combines expertise in petroleum engineering, geoscience, and computer science. They are developing holistic frameworks for decision-making in CO2-EOR projects, considering factors such as reservoir heterogeneity, fluid-rock interactions, and economic feasibility.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Imperial College London has implications for both oil-producing regions and countries seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. By implementing advanced CO2-EOR technologies, companies can increase oil production from existing fields while contributing to global efforts to mitigate climate change by capturing and storing CO2 emissions.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

CO2-EOR is a commercially proven technology with widespread implementation across the globe:

  • Permian Basin (U.S.): The Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico is a major hub for CO2-EOR operations, with numerous oil companies utilizing captured CO2 to enhance production.
  • Weyburn-Midale CO2 Project (Canada): This project has been injecting CO2 into an oil field in Saskatchewan since 2000, demonstrating the effectiveness of CO2-EOR for both oil recovery and carbon sequestration.
  • Gorgon Project (Australia): This large-scale natural gas project includes a significant CO2 injection component, storing captured CO2 in a depleted gas reservoir.