Scientists at Texaco Inc. say plentiful tree chemicals called lignins can be made into compounds that will help flush out oil that otherwise would be too costly to recover. The compounds, known as surfactants, work much like a detergent, attaching themselves to oil drops and flattening them into a slurry that is easier to recover. The process can take several years, but could add 150 billion barrels of oil to reserves in the United States, says researcher Douglas Naae.

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