What is an Enhanced Oil Recovery?

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  • Written By: Luke Arthur
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 24 January 2020
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Enhanced oil recovery is a strategy that is used by modern oil companies to increase the efficiency of harvesting oil. With these techniques, companies can often significantly increase the amount of oil that is taken from an oilfield. There are several methods that can be used with enhanced oil recovery, including gas injection, chemical injection, microbial injection, and thermal strategies. This process may benefit oil companies as well as the general public.

In the past, oil companies struggled to efficiently take oil out of oil fields. Using traditional methods, the companies could only extract up to 40% of the available oil in the field. With these enhanced oil recovery techniques, as much as 60% of the oil in the field can be extracted. This allows the companies to produce more oil within a shorter period of time.

One of the techniques that is used in enhanced oil recovery is gas injection. With this strategy, oil companies pump carbon dioxide, nitrogen, or some other gas down into the well in order to aid with oil extraction. The gas displaces the oil, and helps to improve the efficiency of the well.

Another technique that is used is referred to as chemical injection. Injecting certain water soluble polymers into the well can reduce the amount of friction in the process. By reducing friction, the companies can extract the oil more easily.


Another less common technique is microbial injection. This technique involves injecting genetically engineered microbes into the oil fields. These microbes expel carbon dioxide, which provides the same benefits as the gas injection method. This method is not used as frequently as gas or chemical injection, because it is more expensive to develop the microbes.

Sometimes, companies will try to heat up the oil with thermal methods. This is typically done by injecting steam into the oil field. By heating up the oil, it runs more smoothly through the pipes and helps to increase efficiency.

The process of enhanced oil recovery is often beneficial for both oil companies and the general public. Using these methods, the oil companies can often increase their efficiency, increasing the amount of profit that is generated. The general public may benefit because the oil companies are able to produce more oil. By increasing the available supply of oil, this helps to drive down the price of gas at the pump. Many factors impact the price of gas, but enhanced oil recovery does play an important role in the process.



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