Examiner.com: Kern County may be the new hub of Climate Change technology

Frank Maccioli (Examiner.com, October 5th) View article source

Cal State Bakersfield hosted a workshop on Carbon Capture & Sequestration (CCS) last Friday. For all of you non-environmental folks, CCS is one of several methods being discussed to reduce the emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Such reductions are necessary to comply with recent California regulations which were designed to reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) such as CO2.

The workshop featured presentations by a variety of experts in the field. CSUB’s geology professor, Dr. Rob Negrini discussed the scientific basis for the warming of the Earth’s temperature, asserting that there is no dispute in the scientific community that the Earth is warming – any dispute is political.

Les Clark of the Independent Oil Producers Association (IOPA) discussed the history of oil production in Kern County and how his organization has participated in a variety of environmental control measures over the years in order to comply with regulations and continue to produce crude oil.

Dr. Roger Aines of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory explained what CCS is. CCS is a means to capture CO2 emissions from the source of the gas, such as a power plant, and essentially bury it or “store it” safely underground in either unusable aquifers (unusable because they are too salty) or in crude oil formations. Because Kern County is one of the nation’s largest crude oil producers, the possible use of some of the existing fields as potential CCS storage facilities appears to be a natural fit.

A review of which oil fields in Kern County might be best suited for CCS was presented by CSUB’s Dr. Jan Gillespie. There are a few such fields that are likely candidates, however, several more that would not be suitable in her opinion.

A panel discussion then followed, with a variety of questions posed to the morning’s speakers, including a rather, shall I say “unexpected,” question posed by a Sierra Club representative who asked if the researchers had considered what might happen to CO2 stored underground if Kern County was hit by a meteor in the future. (Suffice to say that most everyone agreed that a release of CO2 would be the least of our worries should that happen!)

Following lunch, the workshop continued with a discussion by Dr. Liz Burton of the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership about whether California really needed CCS. She explained that because California does not have coal fired power plants like the Eastern United States, the use of CCS is not readily apparent as a practical solution. However, a significant portion of California’s emissions are due to automobiles and other transportation sources. One way to reduce GHG emissions from those vehicles would be to switch to electric and hybrid vehicles. This will increase demand for electricty, increasing the size and/or number of power plants and thus make more feasible the use of CCS to control emissions from those facilities.

Next, a discussion of Occidental Petroleum’s upcoming CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery project was given by Willam Barrett, CO2 Business Manager for Oxy. He explained the Oxy’s Elk Hills Oilfield will be accepting recovered CO2 from a new, nearby hydrogen energy facility, Hydrogen Energy California (HECA). CO2 captured from HECA will be injected into the Elk Hills Oilfield and used to increase production of oil that would otherwise not be recovered by conventional production techniques. Mr. Barret also stated that Oxy currently injects  37 metric tonnes/year of CO2 equivalent gases, compared to a US total of 92 million tonnes/yr.

Rich Myhre, Vice President of Bevilacqua-Knight and the Outreach Coordinator for the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership then discussed the potential for CCS in California. If all potential sources, not just oilfields, but also otherwise unusable aquifers were used, California has the potential to store literally billions of tonnes/yr of GHG.

In short, residents of Kern County can now think of themselves as not only an agricultural and crude oil center of California, but also as a center of research for how California, the nation, and the world will address climate change and GHG controls.

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