This letter is in reference to your recent editorial in the Sept. 30 edition of the Rimbey Review regarding the sequestration of carbon dioxide. You have made the assertion that the expenditure of $2 billion on carbon sequestration is a waste of money and you make other claims that are not proven and may be entirely false. I am a graduate chemical engineer from the University of Alberta and have seen a few instances of the use of carbon dioxide to provide tertiary recovery of crude oil from once depleted oil fields. You say, and I quote, “the province has committed to the idea of pumping their waste carbon despite the fact that no scientific research has been done to see exactly what will happen as a result.”
That may be the view from where you sit with little or no experience of the real life in the oil fields. The most noted example is the use of carbon dioxide to recover oil from an oil field north of Odessa, Texas about 30 years ago. Carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide was pumped into the oil field for several years and may be continuing. There has been no convulsion of the earth such as an earthquake and many barrels of oil were recovered along with the prevention of carbon dioxide rising into the atmosphere.
On a later occasion, the Shell Oil Company was involved in the project to pump carbon dioxide into the oil fields around Weyburn, Saskatchewan. This project also recovered many barrels of oil and kept tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There are many other projects that have already achieved the same results in tertiary recovery of lighter grade oils. It is even useful in the recovery of tar and bitumen from heavier oil fields where it is sufficiently deep to allow the pressuring of the carbon dioxide into the formation.
All of this is to say that the carbon dioxide can be placed into these old oil fields with almost no risk of leak and no risk of catastrophic rupture. These fields are under pressure before they were first produced and the addition of carbon dioxide up to a pressure equal to or less than the original field pressure should not change the geologic condition. This has been demonstrated repeatedly. In fact, depending on the weight of over burden on the oil fields, they might be pressured above the original oil field pressure. Most of these fields are in areas away from the earths’ fault zones and do not pose a threat to them. It seems that the study at Columbia University was done by persons from the east coast and a long distance from the places where sequestration of carbon dioxide in oil fields can be added is already useful.
Certainly they are a long way from Alberta. It is easy to throw stones where there is no danger of their falling on the thrower.
On the other hand, the sequestration of much of the carbon dioxide provides several benefits. First is the prevention of the large quantities of carbon dioxide from being vented into the atmosphere. Second, it will result in very large quantities of lighter grade oil to be produced. Third, it will result in more revenue to the Alberta government and might offset the money spent in building the carbon dioxide pipeline. Fourth, it will result in less carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere from the tar sands and make it actually less than ‘dirty’ oil than the present scheme. Fifth, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide from tar sands oil that is vented to the atmosphere (making it ‘cleaner’ oil) should make it more palatable to both US and Canadian consumers. It is not a perfect world. Isn’t it better to provide a means that may be very economical and provide the means to take carbon dioxide from existing tar sands plants and put it into a safe place than continue to vent the large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere making all of that production undesirable?
You seem to be unaware of the benefits of the proposal and the huge economic benefit that the production provides to Alberta and Canada. There is only one way that the proposal could be better for the province and that would be for them to insist that the oil companies fund the project themselves. After all they will be the larger beneficiaries.
Perhaps you should rethink your position. This proposal will not stop people from working on new clean energy sources.
Rocky Mountain House, Alta.