LSU professor: Orphaned oil wells can boost production while sequestering CO2

Professor Dandina Rao. Photo courtesy of LSU.

LSU petroleum engineering professor Dandina Rao has come up with a plan that would  increase oil production as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using the millions of orphaned wells dotting the U.S. landscape.

The proposal has received $74,900 in grant funding through the university’s Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer program, which helps researchers commercialize their technology.

Rao’s plan calls for converting the left-behind wells into carbon-neutral production using an oil recovery process that sequesters carbon dioxide through gas-assisted gravity drainage. The process yields 65% to 95% of the original oil in place compared to other recovery methods.

In Louisiana alone, there are estimated to be more than 4,600 orphaned wells that have been abandoned by the companies that drilled them, leaking oil and emitting methane into the surrounding environment.

Rao believes his proposal can also help get Louisiana’s oil production trending upward, which has declined from 200 million barrels per year in 1980 to 40 million in 2020.

“We want to help the state spur oil production in an environmentally sensitive manner so we will have a booming energy and petrochemical industry for several decades into the future, [creating] jobs and prosperity,” he says. “There is a need for oil, not only as a source of energy, but also as a raw material for the enormous petrochemicals industry around the world, which neither solar nor wind energy can fulfill.” Read the full release.