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Back to the Future: Chaparral hopes to recover 77 million barrels of oil from one of Oklahoma's oldest oil fields

Oklahoma City-based Chaparral Energy is working to boost production from one of the oldest oil fields in Oklahoma in a move that could cause an economic impact of $11 billion to Osage County and provide the Osage Nation with $1.2 billion in royalty payments over the next 30 years.
by Adam Wilmoth Modified: June 25, 2013 at 11:28 pm •  Published: June 25, 2013

Chaparral is using an enhanced oil recovery process known as carbon dioxide flooding to recover up to an additional 77 million barrels of oil, which would be worth more than $7 billion at today's prices.

To reach that production level, Chaparral expects to spend about $1.6 billion in the next three decades.

Chaparral is pumping pressurized carbon dioxide into the reservoir, essentially carbonating the oil attached to rock layers underground. The carbon dioxide is absorbed by the oil, releasing it from the rock and making it lighter and more able to move toward the wellhead and to the surface without the need for the pump jacks that have dotted Osage County for decades.

When the oil is produced, the water and carbon dioxide are separated out and reinjected, continuing the cycle. The more carbon dioxide Chaparral uses, the faster production will increase.

The company earlier this month began receiving 25 million cubic feet per day of carbon dioxide from a fertilizer plant in Coffeyville, Kan. The project is expected to capture about 290 billion cubic feet of carbon dioxide that the fertilizer plant otherwise would have released into the atmosphere.

At current rates, it will take about seven years for the field to reach full production. At that point, production should level off for at least two decades.

Chaparral begin injecting carbon dioxide into the ground June 2. It took about two years to get to that point. During that time, the company has drilled new wells and repaired old ones.

Chaparral also has pumped water into the rock, increasing pressure to where the oil can more easily absorb the carbon dioxide.

“This field is 93 years old. Some of these are the original wells. They were still out there, but they were not very usable,” said Larry Brinlee, Chaparral's vice president of operations for the North Burbank unit. “Over the past few years, we've had to rework hundreds of wells by installing new casings and basically redoing everything short of drilling new wells. We spent a lot of time and money making those old wells suitable for this project.”

Besides repairing old wells, Chaparral also has drilled more than 40 new wells to replace old wells that had long been plugged and abandoned.

The company has begun operations in the first of about 17 planned phases.

“As we go forward, we will potentially drill another 300 wells,” Brinlee said.

A long future

Chaparral Reservoir Engineer DeLon Flinchum is a third-generation oilman who has spent his entire life in Oklahoma oil fields, including the past four decades in the North Burbank. He began in the area in 1971 with Texaco and joined Chaparral as it was beginning its work in the North Burbank field.

“This is my swan song. I could ride off into the sunset now,” Flinchum said. “It's neat to know we're working in a field that has been active for 93 years. Hopefully it will be here for another 93.”

“When Phillips built the waterflood in the '50s, they had no concern we'd be here 63 years later still waterflooding. ... We will just keep getting the oil out of the ground as long as it keeps producing.”

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