Environmental attacks on Kern County’s oil and gas production are increasingly meeting calls from the industry to move forward with landfill carbon technologies seen as helping the state achieve its climate objectives while creating substantial local employment opportunities.
The idea, expressed more recently by the new head of Bakersfield-based oil producer Aera Energy LLC, is that local oilfield operators have the expertise – and ideal access to vast geological formations – to remove gas. greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere or industrial emissions and store it deep underground in a process called carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS.
At least one of these locally proposed projects is under design, and the company behind the project, Santa Clarita-based California Resources Corp., announced last month that it plans to speed up work with CCS technology using “a number” of depleted oil fields in California.
Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have highlighted Kern’s CSC potential, as have leaders of the B3K economic development collaboration. But to date, none of these projects have started being built in California, nor is there a regulatory or financial framework needed to support them.
Aera President and CEO Erik Bartsch said in a bulletin sent Tuesday that California policymakers should embrace CCS instead of banning hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oilfield technique better known as hydraulic fracturing, which Governor Gavin Newsom recently ordered the entire state to end by 2024.
Bartsch asserted that the petroleum industry has the engineering and project management skills needed to develop competitive CCS projects, assuming the state provides appropriate regulatory and legislative support.
“Creating legislative and regulatory avenues to encourage this industry to develop a CCS center in the central valley is a win / win solution for the state and its people,” he wrote.
Newsom’s office says he’s working there. When asked about a response to Bartsch’s comments, the governor’s office said the CCS had a role to play in helping California meet its climate goals. But he also said via email that the state needs to better understand where and how to proceed.
An interagency task force is working to coordinate different policy and regulatory efforts in support of CCS, Newsom’s office said, as the California Air Resources Board works to determine the role carbon sequestration may have in the government’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.
Among CARB’s considerations on the issue, he said, is the integration of CCS into the California low-carbon fuel standard, which requires oil companies to contribute financially or operationally to the fight against carbon dioxide. climate change.
CARB did not respond to requests for comment.
Carbon capture and sequestration can take different forms. It typically uses large amounts of energy to extract carbon dioxide from the air, or a specific waste stream, and then turns it into a solid such as biochar or a liquid that can be stored underground.
CRC’s project proposes to upgrade the company’s 550-megawatt Elk Hills power plant with equipment to remove three-quarters of the CO2 produced at the site and bury it to over a mile Earth. The company estimated that the project would bury up to 1.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking more than 300,000 passenger vehicles off the road.
One aspect of the process that makes CCS so attractive to Kern, besides the availability of large reservoirs where carbon dioxide could be stored, is how CO2 can be used to promote local oil production by making the thick crude less. viscous and therefore easier to extract.
CRC said the project would generate nearly 3,500 statewide jobs and more than $ 200 million in taxes over its three-year construction period, plus 150 permanent jobs and $ 200 million in taxes over 20 years.
Another model proposed by CCS supporters would suck carbon directly from the atmosphere. Yet another would take so-called biomass such as agricultural waste and use a process called gasification to remove methane or hydrogen, then bury the remaining biochar, which would increase the capacity of an orchard or field to retain water.
Scientists at Lawrence Livermore released a report early last year concluding that California can essentially eliminate 125 megatonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2045 through a combination of land management, waste management practices and CSC. Noting specifically the CCS potential of the Kern oilfields, he said the whole effort would cost less than $ 10 billion a year, or less than half of 1% of the state’s economic output.
Executives at B3K, a Brookings Institution-led effort which stands for Better Bakersfield & Boundless Kern, also highlighted the local benefits of CCS, saying it would offer much greater employment potential than solar and renewable energy projects. wind turbine.
Aera, in an email separate from Bartsch’s newsletter, noted that the International Energy Agency and a United Nations panel on climate change have advocated the widespread adoption of CCS for meet the challenge of global climate change.
“As California aims to meet its climate goals,” he said, “the state needs to adopt a comprehensive strategy that includes (CCS that incorporates industrial use of greenhouse gases) and facilitates the role oil and gas companies can play in providing the capital and technological expertise necessary to advance these technologies. ”