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West Virginia University researchers collaborate on energy policy study

Univeristy of Wyoming and West Virginia University logos

by Chelsi Baker, WVU College of Law

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A team of researchers from the West Virginia University College of Law, WVU’s Energy Institute and the University of Wyoming have completed the first phase of a policy study for the United States Energy Association.

The study examines the regulatory environment in 12 states regarding the use of using CO2 (carbon dioxide) to extract additional oil from depleted reservoirs, a practice known as enhanced oil recovery. This method can extend an oil reservoir’s production by an additional 20%to 40%.  

The principal authors of the study are Professor Jesse Richardson of WVU Law; Dr. Sam Taylor of the WVU Energy Institute; Kris Koski of the University of Wyoming; and Professor Tara Righetti of the UW College of Law. Students at both institutions provided crucial research support on the project.

In the U.S, active commercial EOR projects inject over two billion cubic feet of CO2 into oil reservoirs. There is very little CO2-EOR activity in West Virginia but there is tremendous potential, according to Richardson, and the study could help promote oil production in the Mountain State.

The study’s goal is to help stakeholders better understand the laws, policies and regulations governing CO2 utilization, storage and projects. The authors also make recommendations to support regional CO2-EOR development and help standardize policies.

Jesse Richardson, professor WVU law school
Jesse Richardson, Professor, WVU College of Law

"Nationally, growing interest in carbon dioxide removal and federal support for underground storage of CO2 through grants and economic incentives make state laws governing enhanced oil recovery increasingly important,” Richardson said. “Although this effort represents the first comprehensive evaluation of individual state laws, even more important is the identification of potential points of conflict and inconsistency within and between states."

Sam Taylor, WVU Energy Institute
Dr. Sam Taylor, Assistant Director, WVU Energy Institute

Taylor says they found that rules governing CO2-EOR projects vary from state to state and, for a few states, the rules are unclear.

“In general, our findings show that just because you have a clear framework for doing CO2 storage and utilization in any particular state, moving that CO2 from a neighboring state, or having projects that cross state lines, could be very difficult or expensive, purely from a regulatory and policy perspective,” he said.

Students from WVU Law and the University of Wyoming supported the study by conducting research and analyzing state statutes and case law related to CO2 storage and enhanced oil recovery. Often, they needed to turn around assignments overnight or in a matter of hours.

“Due to the timing of the project and the complexity of the law, an intensive effort was required over a short period of time during the summer. Our students excelled, producing outstanding work under severe time constraints,” said Richardson.

At WVU Law, third-year students Bailey Emory, Erin O’Brien and Robert Vaughan, and second-year students Maddie Hinkle, Shawn Hogbin and Katie Stewart worked throughout the summer on the energy policy study.

Shawn Hogbin, WVU Law student
Shawn Hogbin, WVU Law student

“Discussions with Professor Richardson and my peers during which we untangled the law were some of the most memorable and enjoyable parts of the project,” Hogbin said. “I feel fortunate to have learned so much about a topic I initially knew so little about, for a chance to hone my legal research skills, and for the memorable interactions with my peers and professors.”

Katie Stewart, WVU Law student
Katie Stewart, WVU Law student

Emory worked on the project as Public Interest Advocates Fellow in WVU Law’s Land Use and Sustainable Development Clinic.

“I’ve always had an interest in oil and gas law, and this summer gave me an amazing opportunity to learn more about the industry and research various regulations in such a comprehensive manner. The state reports covered diverse topics, such as water rights, pore space, and siting requirements,” Emory said. “Having the opportunity to read and revise each report, as well as compare eastern state policies to western state policies, provided me with knowledge that I likely would not have an opportunity to learn elsewhere.”

The team’s work is supported by research grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Energy Association.

Phase I of the project is titled "Study on State's Policies & Regulations per CO2-EOR Storage Conventional, ROZ and EOR in Shale: Permitting, Infrastructure, Incentives, Royalty Owners, Eminent Domain, Mineral-Pore Space, and Storage."

Read the full report.

-WVU-

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