Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 9, 2014

Proposed law would use carbon dioxide to extract oil

LANSING – Michigan lawmakers are considering a bill that will allow drillers to use carbon dioxide to extract oil from outdated wells.

It is part of a series of bills to amend laws that regulate the storage and purchase of crude oil and petroleum. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, would allow companies to pump carbon dioxide deep into old wells to extract more oil.

“If you have a pop bottle and you shake it, it overflows,” said Maggie Datema, the director of legislative affairs at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “It’s the same concept. You can get some more oil out of a well and you’re (isolating) the CO2 when you inject it into the oil and the well.”

The DEQ supports the legislation.

Oil wells usually contain some amount of oil that is too deep to access. The legislation is meant to allow drillers to use carbon dioxide to push oil to the top.

It's not the same technique as fracking, which injects a mixture of chemicals to force natural gas to the surface.

“It doesn’t involve the controversial technique of fracking,” Pettalia said. “These are existing wells. They will not have to be drilled any further and new wells will not have to be drilled.”

“These are resources we already identified, we already know where they are, and the technique is to help us capture the inventory of oil we area already aware of,” he said.

Fracking is a process that is usually used to extract natural gas and rarely used to extract oil.

Fracking creates fractures in rock or shale. But usually in oil wells, those fractures are already made, said James Clift, the policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. The MEC is neutral on the bill.

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