Carbon dioxide flooding is a strategy that is often used in mining operations, particularly in the mining of oil wells. The process involves injecting or flooding an oil reservoir with controlled amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). The process helps to increase the pressure within the reservoir, which tends to lower as the supply of oil is diminished. By using carbon dioxide flooding to essentially fill the void left by the harvested oil, it is possible to rebuild that lost pressure and make harvesting the remaining oil much easier.
The general process for utilizing carbon dioxide flooding is to identify strategic points within an existing oil reservoir, then using drilling equipment to tap directly into that reservoir at those points. A controlled flow of CO2 is then pumped in at those points. Sensitive equipment is used to monitor the level of pressure found in the reservoir, making it possible to increase or reduce that flow as the means of maintaining the optimum pressure level for pumping any remaining oil deposits. Doing so allows the oil company to avoid creating excessive pressure that could lead to accidents involving injuries to anyone working near the oil well or other type of drilling site.
There are several different ways to create the flow of CO2 that is used for carbon dioxide flooding. The process may call for adding some element to gas that already exists within the reservoir, creating a release of CO2. Other processes call for artificially creating the carbon dioxide in some above ground chamber, then tapping into that chamber in order to inject the CO2 into the reservoir. Depending on the location of the drill site, the amount of product needed to create the ideal level of pressure and the amount of oil that remains to be harvested, one method may be more cost effective than the other.
As with many aspects of oil drilling, there are some dangers associated with carbon dioxide flooding. Failure to adequately monitor the amount of pressure created during and even after the flooding process can lead to unstable conditions within the reservoir that ultimately damage drilling rigs and equipment. Should pressure levels reach dangerous levels, the potential for damage goes beyond partial destruction of drilling equipment and the oil rig proper, involving increased risk of injuries to rig workers. For this reason, making sure the equipment used to control and monitor the injection process is in top working order is often a priority.