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Using Carbon Sequestration to flush out old oil wells passes the state House


LANSING (WKZO) -- The Michigan House has approved legislation that will permit a new technique to retrieve new oil from old oilfields and at the same time get rid of the carbon wastes taken from the plants that burn coal and oil.

One of the bills was sponsored by Aric Nesbitt of Lawton.

WMU Geologist William Harrison says they are working with a federal grant to determine best practices for the carbon sequestration technique.

It’s a very clever meshing of technologies that would allow the planet to use petroleum products and at the same time breathe less of the wastes they produce,  and its being developed right here in Kalamazoo at WMU.

Dr. William Harrison director of the Michigan Geological Repository at WMU says it started with a Federal grant to find if they could take waste carbon dioxide that is scrubbed from the smoke produced at power plants and smelters and other industries and inject it into deep wells to get rid of it.

Their job was to find places deep under ground to store it. They hired a drilling firm out of Traverse City to try it.

Then a lightbulb went on.

What if they used it to flush oil out of old oil wells that have given up all they can by conventional means? It turns out that the liquefied carbon dioxide works perfectly.

Harrison says there is a lot of potential in Michigan alone to extract oil. They just concluded a two day conference on the technique for industry officials at WMU, to introduce them to the concept.

They know this because they have rock samples from most of the southern pinninsula that gives them a geological road map of the state, all stored in a warehouse near Stadium and U.S. 131.

He says their Traverse City drilling firm is already trying it out in oil wells they own. He says this makes a lot more sense from a financial point of view that would actually provide an incentive for firms to make use of this waste carbon. It also makes a ton of environmental sense.

The essential question of course is can it be done safely so that that it doesn’t come back to haunt us later. Dr. Harrison says its far enough down that it won’t cause any problems.

Environmental groups have questions about the technique, and claim the package of bills now headed to the State Senate is is loaded up with new tax breaks for oil firms and more authority to run pipelines over private lands that will contaminate the environment.