Apply sanctions to those oil and gas-producing companies in Trinidad and Tobago who vent carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere, rather than sequestering it underground – that's the firm advice of the country's leading geologist, Dr. Krishna Persad. 

Why? Because in addition to making a contribution to the amelioration of global warming, however modest in Trinidad and Tobago's context, it is a shameful waste of a resource that could be employed in enhanced oil recovery (EOR), which could arrest, and perhaps increase, the country's stagnant crude output (which was 60,149 b/d in August, not including condensate). 

Persad, who runs his own small upstream company, KPA and Associates, has long insisted that the country should focus its attention more on recovering the “stranded oil” known to exist in the Southern Basin rather than relying so heavily on finding “new oil” through exploration, which is risky and takes a long time to show positive results, even if it does. 

He prefers CO2 to other methods of EOR, which have been tried over the decades but with limited success, as witness to the amount of heavy oil (that with an API gravity of 18 degrees or less) that also remains unexploited and which can be lifted through secondary recovery methods as well.

Persad's estimate of crude stranded in conventional reservoirs is around 2 billion barrels and the figure for heavy oil is about 1.5 billion. 

It is therefore a crying shame, in his view, that such a huge amount of crude, a substantial portion of which could be produced by CO2, should be left lying useless in the ground. 

To encourage companies not to abandon wells that may become “uneconomic” after a period of time but to “keep them safe until CO2 can be applied,” tax incentives should be offered, he insists. 

These would apply to “the companies that capture and purify the CO2 (300 million cubic feet a day of which is emitted by the ammonia plants at Point Lisas alone), build the pipeline or pipelines to transmit the CO2 to the Southern basin and then sequester the CO2 underground.” 

The last named, Persad thinks, should be awarded the most generous incentives because “with about 45% of the CO2 coming back out with the oil, you need to ensure that the CO2 is separated, recompressed and put back in the ground. So its not just CO2/EOR on one side, its sequestration on the other and reducing the carbon footprint.” 

The companies that capture and purify CO2 in the first place also have one of the key roles in the whole exercise because they could potentially collect all the CO2 being emitted in the country, from Point Lisas, Atlantic LNG and the oilfields and also the flue gas from “large industrial plants.” 

Persad envisages that the CO2 transmission line should run to Forest Reserve in the first instance, “with a spur into the Gulf of Paria and then further expanded into the eastern offshore.” 

As described, this whole CO2/EOR project will clearly be an expensive one, requiring backers with deep pockets. But Persad is convinced the rewards will be substantial. 

“Folks, I am tired of talking about CO2/EOR. Let's just get it done, please, at least before I get to 25 years of age.” He's actually 70.