Tag Archives: carbon capture

Carbon Capture and Eco-tourism

Eco-tourism is a growing for-profit industry that works to preserve threatened ecosystems and brings in visitors who pay to experience the wilderness. The industry has been successful in preventing the loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of biodiversity.
This ties into the global energy question indirectly, but in an important way. Some eco-tourism models, specifically ones that focus on forest preservation, are functioning as a “carbon sink,” effectively capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide emitted by other human industry. The trees’ work can be capitalized on through carbon credit trading. Each tree captures roughly 0.09 tons of carbon dioxide over its lifetime (1). When the facility works under a carbon credit policy, they can sell credits to fund additional land purchases (2).
The eco-tourism facilities, usually with zero impact themselves, are largely far-off destinations. Each visitor must fly many hours to reach them, and one round-trip intercontinental flight emits roughly 2 tons of carbon dioxide per person (3). Discounting any further smaller flights or overland travel to reach the eco-tourist destination, one visitor automatically offsets the lifetime work of around 22 trees. Additionally, the reforestation techniques only truly capture carbon as long as the trees remain alive, as burned or decomposing trees release the very gasses they captured.
Ecotourism has clear benefits in terms of slash-and-burn prevention and environmental education opportunities, but I believe the tourism facilities should take into account the carbon emission of their guests’ journeys when they tout their zero-impact and take advantage of carbon credits.

(1) http://www.fs.fed.us/ccrc/topics/urban-forests/
(2) Segel, Arthur et al. “Patagonia Sur: For-Profit Land Conservation in Chile.” HBS publishing, 2011.
(3) MacKay, David. Sustainability-without the hot air. 2009. http://www.withouthotair.com (really great energy book…and it’s free to download)

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Why U.S.A needs investment in Enhanced Oil Recovery technology for energy security?

In general, crude oil production from oil reservoirs can include up to three distinct phases: primary, secondary and tertiary (or enhanced) recovery. During the primary recovery of crude oil, the oil is produced because of reservoir energy as the pressure thousands of feet below the surface is high enough to push the oil to the surface. Typically only about 5-20% of a reservoir’s original oil in place is typically produced during primary recovery.
However, with much of the easy-to-produce oil already recovered from domestic oil-fields, producers have attempted several tertiary, or enhanced oil recovery techniques that offer prospects for ultimately producing a total of 60% or more of the original oil in place. Many of EOR technologies are still in their developmental phase with many successful laboratory studies already conducted. Enhanced oil recovery methods can be classified into three major categories:  thermal, miscible gas and chemical.[1]
While a Mature Hydrocarbon Province, the U.S. Still Has 400 Billion Barrels of Undeveloped Technically Recoverable Oil Resource. Undeveloped domestic oil resources still in the ground (in-place) total 1,124 billion barrels. Of this large in-place resource, 400 billon barrels is estimated to be technically recoverable. This resource includes undiscovered oil, “stranded” light oil amenable to CO2-EOR technologies, unconventional oil (deep heavy oil and oil sands) and new petroleum concepts (residual oil in reservoir transition zones). [3] The good thing about CO2-EOR technologies is that CO2 is pumped in ground to displace oil out from the underground. That is not totally eliminating GHG emissions but reduces them by as much as 24 percent. It is like making money out of carbon capture and storage today. [4]
In view of the world-wide shortage of petroleum and the fact that almost 50% to 60% of the original oil in place is left in the reservoirs at the end of secondary recovery, the importance of enhanced oil recovery methods to produce additional oil can hardly be overstated. U.S leads the world in the EOR technology. As the leader in EOR technology, the U.S. oil industry faces the challenge of further applying this technology towards economically producing the more costly remaining domestic oil resources. While pursuing this remaining domestic oil resource base poses considerable economic risk and technical challenge to producers, developing the technical capability and infrastructure necessary to exploit this resource reduces our dependence on foreign energy sources and helps our domestic energy industry maintain worldwide technical leadership. [2]
(1) ‘Mechanisms of Surfactant Enhanced oil Recovery in Oil-Wet Fractured Carbonate Reservoirs’. Doctoral thesis presented to the faculty of chemical engineering at University of Houston. By Bhargaw Adibhatla.
(2) ‘Technology’, Chapter 3 of Hard Truths. A report submitted to the secretary of energy by National Petroleum Council.
(3) Undeveloped Domestic Oil Resources Provide Foundation For Increasing U.S. Oil Supply. An analysis by Advanced Resources International, Arlington, VA, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy.


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