LSU Innovation in Enhanced Oil Recovery Could Mean Billions for Louisiana

January 20, 2021

Getting More Oil Out of the Ground: Smarter, Cheaper, and in a More Efficient and Environmentally Sound Way

Through a recently patented LSU technology known as gas-assisted gravity drainage, LSU petroleum engineer and National Academy of Inventors senior member Dandina Rao sees a “tremendous opportunity” for Louisiana to recover more oil from depleted, abandoned reservoirs and tight shale, including the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, which stretches across the entire middle of the state spanning 23 parishes—“a huge resource” estimated to hold 7 billion barrels of untapped oil.

“With the current method used in industry today, 90% of the oil is left behind in the rock,” Rao said. “So, we decided to think out of the box and came up with an entirely different process.”

Rao’s method can recover 65-99% of the oil trapped in tight shale and is significantly more affordable than the most commonly used industry method, which relies on injecting pure carbon dioxide at very high pressures. His improved process can instead source mixed flue gas from industrial emissions—including refineries and other petrochemical facilities—making good use of a cheap and plentiful resource (that otherwise would go to waste and impact the environment) for more efficient oil extraction.

Oil drilling rigs

Oil drilling rigs.

– Elsa Hahne / LSU / Adobe Stock

“Industrial carbon capture combined with enhanced oil recovery provides a golden opportunity for our state where our petroleum engineers can use their skills and expertise in pipelines, drilling, and reservoirs to get a lot more oil out of the ground and do it in a way that’s good for the environment. Louisiana has all of the components necessary to do this, and LSU is the only entity with the ability to bring all of the pieces together for us.”

- Ray Lasseigne, co-owner and president of TMR Exploration in Bossier City, with an ongoing C02-enhanced oil recovery project in Livingston Parish