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Enhanced oil recovery project OKd for Bakken-Three Forks wells in Dunn County

North Dakota's Industrial Commission has given the okay for an enhanced oil recovery pilot project in Dunn County.

It’s proposed by XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil. And it would involve Bakken-Three Forks wells.

"We're really excited to see a company of that size and scale get interested in Bakken enhanced oil recovery," said North Dakota Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms. He told the Commission the effort would involved four Bakken-Three Forks wells. He said XTO plans to use surfactants, water and produced natural gas for the project.

"The produced gas they would be using is a simulator for carbon dioxide," Helms said. "That's where they really intend to go with enhanced oil recovery, if this proves out."

Helms called the project "innovative and important."

"We have three projects running right now that are testing three different technologies," Helms said. "This will bring a fourth innovation to the table."

Helms said carbon dioxide acts to "re-pressurize" the well.

"It (CO2) also dissolves in the oil, making the oil swell," Helms said. "And it replaces oil molecules that are in those tiny pore spaces, that you can't get to with water or surfactant."

Helms said it ends up storing hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 in the process, while recovering "low-carbon" or "net-negative carbon" oil.

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