Carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2EOR) has been identified by industry experts, researchers and local oil producers as a viable option for increasing Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) heavy oil production using carbon dioxide emissions from the petrochemical , power and LNG sectors. In this process carbon dioxide is injected into an oil reservoir and dissolves in the crude oil. The resulting mixture reduces the oil viscosity and causes the oil to swell, leading to greater oil mobility and ultimately increased oil production. Petrotrin operated promising CO2EOR pilot projects in the Forest Reserve and Oropouche fields in the 1970s and 1990s for a limited time. Since then carbon dioxide emissions have increased while oil production has declined; however CO2EOR has the potential to arrest and possibly reverse both trends.
The major stakeholders: the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI), the National Gas Company (NGC), PETROTRIN, UWI, and UTT need to coordinate efforts aimed at implementing CO2EOR on a large scale in order to realize CO2EOR in Trinidad and Tobago. At 2017’s Energy Chamber Conference the Road Map for CO2EOR in Trinidad and Tobago was presented by Dr. Lorraine Sobers and since then, the key stakeholders have set up the framework for a steering committee to establish and manage the CO2EOR Road Map (CERM).
Estimated heavy oil reserves onshore and offshore Trinidad and Tobago are 1 billion and 2 billion barrels of oil in place, respectively (heavy oil being defined as oil with gravity between 10 and 18 degrees API). At present approximately 30% of Petrotrin’s total oil production comes from thermal EOR processes with steam and hot water injection into heavy oil reservoirs. The government has established tax incentives and capital allowances for heavy oil production through tax credits of the Supplemental Petroleum Tax (SPT), capital allowance on the Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT), exploration expenditure, development activity, workovers and qualifying side tracks. However these incentives and allowances have not been sufficient to stimulate EOR production to the volumes needed. This is one of the issues which will be reviewed within the CERM Project.
Apart from economic challenges, technical challenges must be addressed to ensure that there is a return on investment; this is one of the main thrusts of the CERM Project. Failures and underperformance of EOR projects can often be attributed to a lack of understanding of the geology of the reservoir and mechanical problems. The approach of CERM is to reduce technical, environmental, financial and social risk as the required effort and investment increases throughout the project. There has been ongoing work to assess and evaluate the risk of different aspects of CO2EOR in Trinidad and Tobago. For example, Petrotrin and UTT have been working together to screen reservoirs for CO2EOR technology. UTT has also received funding from MEEI to determine heavy oil reserves and audit carbon dioxide emissions. NGC has done some preliminary work to evaluate the feasibility of building a dedicated carbon dioxide pipeline for CO2EOR. Research has also been ongoing at UWI and UTT to assess and reduce the risk of carbon dioxide breakthrough. The CERM Project allows for collaboration and coordination between key stakeholders to move the process forward. This is expected to result in synergy, efficient use of expertise, equipment, time and funding.
The CERM Project brings together the key stakeholders in Working Groups to plan and implement CO2EOR by sharing expertise while working in multidisciplinary and cross institutional teams. Each stakeholder will take the lead within their respective areas and academia will be involved in every aspect conducting studies and cultivating local expertise. The involvement of academia provides access to the expertise of researchers in a collaborative setting; it will also give students the opportunity to contribute to a national project where the impact of their work is tangible within the short to medium term.
Phase One of the CERM is expected to take about 18 to 24 months culminating in a successful pilot project. This pilot project will be selected and conducted in such a way that best practices can be applied successfully to other reservoirs and any justification for a carbon dioxide pipeline will be data-driven. Technical, financial, regulatory, safety and environmental assessments will be conducted alongside non-technical studies that determine the best approach for public awareness initiatives. These studies and assessments are intended to reduce risk to the pilot project and to allow for successful expansion. The eventual scaling up to wider CO2EOR implementation will require significant capital outlay (TT$ 2 billion) to build a dedicated pipeline and also for carbon dioxide compression. This data-driven approach, starting at the pilot project, provides an opportunity to build local expertise in EOR and put local experts in a position to actively be involved in exporting EOR technology internationally. The pilot project will be closely monitored to optimize reservoir sweep and oil production with respect to the geology and the injection strategy used.
The full roll out, from Phase One to large scale CO2EOR implementation, is expected to take about 5 years. If future expansion is approved, the planning and capital investment for the transportation of large volumes of carbon dioxide will commence by year three. By the end of year five, the CERM is anticipated to increase oil production by using a supply of 100 to 200 MMscf of carbon dioxide per day to Petrotrin fields, lease operators, joint ventures and farm outs. The estimate of oil production and the required carbon dioxide volumes will be become more definitive based on CERM Working Groups’ studies.
The CERM Project is expected to demonstrate the best attributes of our local energy sector - Collaboration, Effectiveness, Resourcefulness and Mastery.
The CERM Project is a collaboration between academic institutions, The University of the West Indies (UWI) and The University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT), and Government Energy Institutions - the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI), PETROTRIN and the National Gas Company (NGC) toward sustainable development of known oil reserves using Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Oil Recovery.