For over half a century, producers of petroleum products have been seeking an inexpensive gas to inject into subsurface formations for diverse applications. Natural gas has widely been used for this service, but its value has increased to the point where it is uneconomical to use in most instances. In many locations, the natural gas supply is diminishing or is completely nonexistent and a substitute must be found.
Stack or flue gases from steam boiler plants and the exhaust from gas-burning or oil-burning engines have long been considered as a potential source of cheap inert gas for this service. As early as 1924, a plant was built in Texas in an attempt to produce large quantities of inert gas from a mixture of boiler stack gas and engine exhaust. It was never successful because of severe corrosion incompression equipment. An inert gas installation that has become well-known to the industry is Amoco's Elk Basin Plant in Wyoming. It began operation in 1949injecting boiler stack gas into a reservoir. In early stages of operation, this plant encountered severe corrosion in compression and related equipment that was later alleviated, but not completely eliminated, through ammonia injection at several points within the system. The plant operated more or less continuously for over twenty years when injection into that field was abandoned.
Many other abortive attempts have been made over the years to produce a compressible inert gas from engine exhaust, from boiler stack gas or from combinations of the two. In most cases they were complete failures. Some did have limited success but all were short lived due to the corrosive qualities of the gas.
In the year 1959, the first successful system for producing noncorrosive inert gas from internal combustion engine exhaust was installed and put on-stream in a Louisiana oil-producing field.