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Beetle bugs Chaparral project

by Adam Wilmoth Modified: July 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm •  Published: July 3, 2013
Oklahoma City-based Chaparral Energy Corp. last month began injecting carbon dioxide into the rock beneath part of Osage County in hopes of reviving the North Burbank Field, one of the country’s oldest and richest oilfields.

I wrote about the project last week, but I didn’t have room to tell all the details.

Chaparral hopes to recover up to 77 million barrels of oil — worth more than $7 billion at today’s prices — over the next three decades from the field that was first drilled 93 years ago.

The project centers on carbon dioxide.

Chaparral is pumping 25 million cubic feet per day of carbon dioxide into the rock formation deep below ground. The greenhouse gas then carbonates the oil, which flows back to the surface through production wells.

The carbon dioxide is then separated from the oil and pumped back underground.

Chaparral is fueling the project with carbon dioxide from a fertilizer plant in Coffeyville, Kan.

To connect the plant and the field, Chaparral built a 68-mile pipeline.

That’s where the Oklahoma City oil company met a tiny insect that is a common foe to the oil and gas industry.

Northern and eastern Oklahoma is home to the American Burying Beetle, an endangered species.

To lay pipe in the area, operators must first hire scientists to find, trap and relocate the endangered insect that often hides just below ground.

The effort cost Chaparral $6 million, or about $500,000 for each of the 12 bugs found.

Double or nothing

The North Burbank also lies near another popular oil-rich rock.

The Mississippian — which stretches from western Kansas through northern Oklahoma — lies just below the area Chaparral is targeting. But the company is not going after both rocks.

The North Burbank is a pressure play. Chaparral has spent much of the past two years pumping water into the rock layer, building the pressure high enough to force the oil and carbon dioxide to mix.

The Mississippian , however, is a dewatering play. Oil companies depressurize the rock layer as they produce oil.

“If we were to develop the Mississippian, there’s a chance we could frack into the Burbank and deplete the pressure,” said Chaparral Reservoir Engineer DeLon Flinchum said.


by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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