Saudi Arabia’s first carbon capture and storage pilot project, located at its Ghawar oilfield, may boost oil recovery rates by 20% points, oil minister Ali al-Naimi said, reported Reuters.

“This pilot will show us whether we can take the Ghawar field from 50% (oil) recovery to 70% recovery plus or minus,” Naimi told a news conference in Riyadh last week.

50% is the current recovery rate for most Saudi oilfields, with some fields reaching almost 70% through water injection, Naimi explained.

“It is hoped that this pilot project can demonstrate that it is possible to increase oil recovery at commercially sustainable costs,” added Sadad al-Husseini, a former top executive at Saudi Aramco.

According to Trade Arabia the Ghawar field produces almost half Saudi Arabia’s oil output and has been operating since 1951. It has estimated remaining proven oil reserves of 75 billion barrels.

The Aramco-developed carbon project, began operating this year with 40 mcf/d carbon dioxide to be captured at the Hawiyah gas recovery plant and then piped 85 km (53 miles) to the Uthmaniyah area.

At Uthmaniyah it will then be injected into flooded oil reservoirs under high pressure to enhance oil recovery (EOR), storing an estimated 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year.

Carbon storage schemes are being promoted globally as a means to combat green house emissions and global warming. There are currently 15 carbon capture and storage projects worldwide.