Carbon dioxide can be used to extract oil, accelerating the development carbon-capturing technologies and limiting climate change. However, in a new analysis researchers say this will not be enough to reduce emissions to the level recommended by climate scientists.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of trapping carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel power plants and burying it safely underground. By preventing carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere, CCS can help slow global warming and is recognized as a key technology to meet the Paris Climate Agreement.
CCS has the potential to stave off dangerous levels of global warming, but its deployment is not yet widespread.
The oil industry incentivises the development of carbon-capturing tech. The oil industry may play a surprising role in accelerating CCS’s development.
Enhanced oil recovery injects carbon dioxide into oil wells, flushing out oil from the surrounding rocks and allowing more oil to be produced from a reserve. Fossil-fuel power plants are a ready source of carbon dioxide for this process.
In fact, many of the largest CCS projects in the world are connected to enhanced oil recovery operations. This investment could help accelerate the development of CCS, but the authors of the new study note this is unlikely to be enough on its own.
The team developed a model they name MIICE (Model of Iterative Investment in CCS with CO2-EOR) to test the influence of different factors on the growth of CCS technologies up to 2050. The three primary drivers were oil price, which would drive enhanced recovery efforts; carbon tax levels, which would incentivize the trapping of carbon dioxide; and how fast knowledge is gained about the technology, allowing innovations to drive down capital costs.