The State of California is developing a protocol to credit fossil-fuel drilling operations when they use CO2 to enhance oil recovery and leave the CO2 underground permanently.
“We are hopeful that we’ll get to something around zero-emission or negative-emission oil in many of the fields in California,” said Ken Alex, a senior policy advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown and director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.
“They’re geologically suited for carbon capture,” Alex said in a recent Security and Sustainability Forum webinar. “So that is being explored in the regulatory domain.”
It’s being explored specifically by the California Air Resources Board, which administers the state’s carbon cap and trade program. Enhanced oil recovery is not presently recognized as a carbon offset by California’s carbon market, but the board is working on a regulation that would grant it offset status.
Last year, the board released a concept paper that serves as a kind of rough draft of the protocol.
“Staff is planning to develop a QM [quantification methodology] that would properly account for the CO2 emissions sequestered by CCS, and a permanence protocol that would establish the requirements for permanence for CO2 sequestration,” the document states.
Obsevers often criticize the enhanced-oil recovery method of carbon sequestration because it perpetuates the use of fossil fuels, resulting in more carbon released when those fuels are burnt, but it also may provide the most lucrative market for captured carbon.
But according to Bill Brown, the CEO of NetPower, for every carbon atom extracted as oil, two are sequestered as compressed CO2. Which could render oil drilling not just a zero-carbon activity, but a negative-carbon activity.