TULSA — The climate change debate isn't likely to end anytime soon.
Chuck McConnell, assistant secretary for fossil energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, said there is no need to debate the cause of climate change once technology makes it possible to capture carbon dioxide emissions that can be used to fuel enhanced oil recovery operations.
Such technology is being developed now to make carbon capture the right choice for businesses and the environment, McConnell said Monday at the 2012 Improved Oil Recovery Symposium in Tulsa.
More than 800 people were on hand to hear from McConnell and Christopher Reddick, who heads BP's enhanced oil recovery program, at the five-day conference, which continues through Wednesday. Attendees represent more than 30 countries.
Reddick said the oil industry has been slow to embrace enhanced oil recovery, but there is growing proof of its merits.
He said such operations require a long-term effort from producers, who must have a thorough knowledge of the reservoirs where they are working.
BP has developed a program to flood sandstone reservoirs worldwide with low salt water to increase the amount of oil the company can recover.
McConnell advocated using carbon dioxide more often to enhance oil recovery. He called the combination an “un-mined gold story” for the U.S.
He said enhanced oil recovery fueled by carbon dioxide accounts for 5 percent of U.S. oil production, but it has grown by about 40 percent over the past six years as companies return to old oil fields to spur production with new techniques.
Currently the process relies on naturally occurring carbon dioxide, but McConnell said the U.S. could harness hundreds of thousands of tons of it from industrial operations like coal-fired power plants and petrochemical plants.