Undergrad Helped in Search for Carbon Neutral Oil Production

2016 U of I Capitol Scholar Joshua Arneson

Days before Commencement, Joshua Arneson presented his senior thesis research on identifying nonconventional enhanced oil recovery targets in Illinois at the Capitol Rotunda as a University of Illinois Capitol Scholar. Oil deposits saturated with brine water are typically not economical for conventional oil production.

But the deposits he sought were not just for oil production, they are also for geologic carbon storage, where carbon dioxide (CO2) that contributes to climate change is injected and stored underground. The U of I geology major spent the last year working to identify areas that show promise for nonconventional enhanced oil recovery and geologic carbon storage – in other words, oil extraction that stores more carbon than it produces.

Working with ISGS experts Scott Frailey, Nathan Grigsby, and Nathan Webb, Arneson helped develop a technique to identify residual oil zones (ROZs). These are oil reservoirs that overlie brine formations that can store CO2 during enhanced oil recovery.

This idea has been successful in Texas and is being investigated in the Illinois Basin with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Carbon Storage Program. The Cypress Sandstone, the most productive oil reservoir in the Illinois Basin, is considered a strong candidate for the presence of ROZs. However, with enhanced oil recovery by CO2 injection, there is the additional benefit of geologic CO2 storage that might make working in these areas economically feasible. More information about this project can be found on its website located at http://www.isgs.illinois.edu/research/erd/nco2eor.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity and am fortunate to be able to work on this project as it closely aligns with my interest in petroleum geology,” Arneson said. He added that his career interests include both Earth sciences and the technology industry. Currently, he is working for a startup in Chicago that applies drone technology to industrial applications.

The Office of Undergraduate Research’s Capitol Scholars program selects 10 top students from each of the three U of I campuses to present their research to legislators, their staff, and the public at the State Capitol.