The United States of Oil

By John Lippert - 2013-04-02T12:33:57Z

Photograph by Spencer Lowell/Bloomberg Markets

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Energy Upheaval

Vast reservoirs of once-untappable petroleum are poised to hasten America's fossil-fuel renaissance thanks to a technique known as carbon dioxide-enhanced oil recovery. Here's a look at the process.

Left, a Denbury Resources Inc. crew drills for carbon dioxide that's trapped 17,000 feet underground in an extinct volcano near Jackson, Mississippi. The company puts some of the CO2 into a pipeline and ships it to its Hastings field south of Houston. There, Denbury injects the CO2 into 82-year-old conventional wells from which output has been declining since the 1970s. The CO2 sparks a chemical reaction that swells the remaining oil, makes it less sticky and helps it flow. This process, called carbon dioxide-enhanced oil recovery, or CO2 EOR, may help cut U.S. dependence on oil imports.