CO2 plan could help extract more fossil fuels

An extra 17 per cent of North Sea fossil fuels could be extracted using technology which pumps carbon dioxide into oil fields, the Government has said.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks, who is visiting a company in the US which uses naturally occurring CO2 from an extinct volcano to force out oil from ageing fields, said the process could be used in the UK.

Denbury Resources uses enhanced oil recovery techniques in which CO2 from a volcano deep underground near Jackson, Mississippi, is piped 60 miles to Brookhaven where it is pressurised and injected into the field to force out reserves.

But Wicks said the CO2 for similar projects in the North Sea could be sourced from industrial plants, such as power stations.

This would mean a "plus" for the environment, he said, with the climate change gas captured and stored underground instead of escaping into the atmosphere.

Wicks said: "The North Sea's fossil fuels are very important to the UK energy mix and the issue of security of supply. There is still an estimated 25 billion barrels of oil equivalent left to exploit, but full recovery is going to become increasingly challenging and will require some innovative technologies."

The Government believes fossil fuels will continue to play a significant part in meeting the world's energy needs in the coming decades and the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which can cut emissions by 90 per cent will have an important role to play in tackling climate change.

Using CCS technology to generate more fossil fuel production is controversial because it boosts the extraction of fuels that will produce further greenhouse gas emissions.

But MEP Chris Davies, who is responsible for steering draft legislation on CCS through the European Parliament, said fuel from mature North Sea oil fields was less damaging than oil sourced from tar sands or liquefied from coal which could be used as alternatives.

Image: Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks

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