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Latest News in North Belridge, CA
Federal study finds oilfield activity lowered groundwater quality in western Kern
JOHN COX email@example.com://www.bakersfield.com/news/federal-study-finds-oilfield-activity-lowered-groundwater-quality-in-western-kern/article_85fa9848-dee3-11e9-84d9-f77e5137907c.html
A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey concludes oilfield activity has lowered the quality of groundwater in western Kern County, making it saltier and possibly affecting nearby irrigation sources but not harming drinking water.The findings published this month in a technical journal of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists raise a red flag about local oil industry practices but do not point to any imminent government action on what has for years been a hot topic among California anti-oil activists.Based on resear...
A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey concludes oilfield activity has lowered the quality of groundwater in western Kern County, making it saltier and possibly affecting nearby irrigation sources but not harming drinking water.
The findings published this month in a technical journal of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists raise a red flag about local oil industry practices but do not point to any imminent government action on what has for years been a hot topic among California anti-oil activists.
Based on research required under a 2013 state law, the report by local geologist Janice Gillespie suggests local groundwater has mixed with waste fluid known as produced water, the naturally occurring saltwater that comes up from the ground with crude oil. It attributes the mixing to the common industry disposal means of surface ponds and injection wells.
Intermingling of wastewater and groundwater in the Lost Hills, North Belridge and South Belridge oil fields would appear to contravene federal and state regulations designed to protect aquifers containing groundwater deemed suitable for irrigation.
"This is the first time in this study we've seen direct evidence of disposed water migrating outwards from oilfield underground injection disposal wells in California," Gillespie, a former Cal State Bakersfield geology professor who has done consulting work for local oil companies, wrote in a news release from the State Water Resources Control Board.
The oil industry viewed the findings with varying degrees of skepticism. Two oil trade groups asked whether other factors may have contributed to the higher levels of salinity.
Data for the study were drawn from three kinds of wells: those used for oil production, others used for injecting produced water and groundwater monitoring wells.
A follow-up study expected to be released next year will use different methods to examine salinity in shallow groundwater near local oil fields and agricultural areas, the water board's news release said.
The water board's chief deputy director, Jonathan Bishop, said Gillespie's study may lead to additional studies.
"This study provides us with new information that the agencies will use to evaluate if additional groundwater investigations are warranted," he stated in the release.
Surface disposal of produced water puts the fluid into unlined pits, a seep-and-evaporate technique that has largely been phased out in California, with some exceptions in western Kern.
Injection wells, the leading alternative to surface disposal, are generally regarded as environmentally sound as long as an oilfield operator can demonstrate the aquifer where the waste is injected into is of relatively poor quality.
A major implication of the new study is that neither method has been entirely successful at keeping wastewater from spreading into areas where it's not wanted.
The U.S. Geological Survey, where Gillespie works, was contracted to perform the research by the water board, which was obligated to create a regional groundwater monitoring program by 2013's Senate Bill 4.
The Western States Petroleum Association said by email it supports scientific reviews of its operations and the environment and that the trade group is looking over the report to see if further analysis might be in order. President Catherine Reheis-Boyd emphasized groundwater near the three oil fields is not of high enough quality to be considered a source of drinking water.
Another oil trade group, the California Independent Petroleum Association, was more critical. Its CEO, Rock Zierman, faulted the methodology Gillespie used, saying the report failed to repeat warnings contained in other studies cited in her work.
He said the report did not consider whether other sources contributed to the elevated salinity. He added that it was unclear why the study did not cite extensive data gathered during the oil fields' history.
"Our heavily regulated industry operates responsibly under the toughest environmental protections in the world," Zierman said by email. "We support increased regulations when supported by strong science, but these overly generalized conclusions deserve further study rather than broad conclusions that will only result in unfounded public fear and confusion."
The study can be found online here: http://archives.datapages.com/data/deg/2019/EG032019/eg18009/eg18009.htm.
Aera rolls out CarbonFrontier project in Belridge
JOHN COX firstname.lastname@example.org://www.bakersfield.com/news/aera-rolls-out-carbonfrontier-project-in-belridge/article_31fe4b3a-66d5-11ee-81c9-57c0200dbcb6.html
Bakersfield-based oil and gas producer Aera Energy LLC is announcing today a climate-action project in western Kern capable of burying 1.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the annual emissions generated by 30,000 households.CarbonFrontier, as the proposal is called, would capture and store CO2 from the company's existing operations in the Belridge Oil Field. It would complement but is separate from Aera's previously reported bid for federal dollars in support of a facility that would take CO2 directly out of the ai...
Bakersfield-based oil and gas producer Aera Energy LLC is announcing today a climate-action project in western Kern capable of burying 1.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the annual emissions generated by 30,000 households.
CarbonFrontier, as the proposal is called, would capture and store CO2 from the company's existing operations in the Belridge Oil Field. It would complement but is separate from Aera's previously reported bid for federal dollars in support of a facility that would take CO2 directly out of the air.
President and CEO Erik Bartsch told The Californian that CarbonFrontier would leverage Aera's expertise, infrastructure and geography in a way that will benefit Kern's economic development.
"It's a really important moment for the county," he said. "We know this project CarbonFrontier, once it's operational, is going to make a big impact."
Aera predicted the project will create 150 construction jobs during its two-year buildout, plus 75 permanent operating positions. The company would receive state and federal tax credits based on how much carbon it buries.
The company applied earlier this year for a federal injection permit CarbonFrontier would need to put CO2 deep underground for indefinite storage. The company expects to begin operating the project by 2030.
Carbon management is a climate-protection activity many see as critical to reaching California's 2045 carbon neutrality goal. Either through direct-air capture or by retrofitting existing industrial plants, CO2 would be collected and then turned into a fluid, supercritical state for injection into depleted oil and gas reservoirs deep underground.
Several local oil producers have submitted plans for such work, raising hopes in Kern that tax revenues lost to a government-managed decline of petroleum production will be replaced by carbon management activity, if not in comparable employment numbers then at least in local property tax revenue.
Aera, which produces about a quarter of California's oil, was among three local companies that in August won commitments from the U.S. Department of Energy to negotiate on possible local direct-air capture subsidies.
As a result, Aera stands to receive $2.8 million toward a project feasibility study. A Chevron subsidiary hopes to get $3 million for similar work, while California Resources Corp. won a federal nod for $11.8 million to begin designing a direct-air capture project in western Kern.
Bartsch noted direct-air capture is just one of various carbon management activities that could eventually take place on a business park Aera envisions at Belridge. Other possible work there may include hydrogen production.
He said existing plans call for stripping CO2 out of the company's ongoing natural gas processing work, though he added it may be that the gas that gets buried will instead come from oil-related activities such as steam production. CarbonFrontier is planned to use five repurposed CO2 injection wells and four new wells, all located in Belridge.
Bartsch addressed skeptics' worries about gathering up and transporting large quantities of a potentially asphyxiating gas, saying that the injection point would be located at least five miles from the nearest city center, and that the project would not involve any gas pipelines that would extend outside the existing oil-field site.
Aera has gained the support of local institutions such as Cal State Bakersfield, whose outgoing president, Lynnette Zelezny, said in a statement distributed by the company that CarbonFrontier will enhance the county's reputation as an energy hub while also building on the area's global competitiveness.
"Innovation is at the heart of our region's future," she stated, "and projects like CarbonFrontier embody the transformation at the core of Kern County's revitalization."
President and CEO Richard Chapman of the Kern Economic Development Corp. emphasized the project's potential to drive employment and economic vitality.
"Aera's innovative energy projects, particularly CarbonFrontier and DAC (direct-air capture)-Kern, are the future cornerstone of economic prosperity in Kern County," Chapman stated.
New rules could unclog bottlenecks in connecting clean energy to the grid
Jeffrey Lamb, Manager of extra high voltage stations for LADWP walks under the last tower delivering 3,210 megawatts 846 miles from the Columbia River in Oregon to the Sylmar Converter Station.Al Seib | Los Angeles Times | Getty ImagesFederal regulators voted unanimously on Thursday to approve rules that aim to speed up the process of connecting new power sources to the energy grid.The rules could start to unclog a massive bottleneck that stands in the way of getting clean energy sources online to slow global warming, ev...
Jeffrey Lamb, Manager of extra high voltage stations for LADWP walks under the last tower delivering 3,210 megawatts 846 miles from the Columbia River in Oregon to the Sylmar Converter Station.
Al Seib | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
Federal regulators voted unanimously on Thursday to approve rules that aim to speed up the process of connecting new power sources to the energy grid.
The rules could start to unclog a massive bottleneck that stands in the way of getting clean energy sources online to slow global warming, even if they aren’t a panacea.
To connect a new power source, like a new wind or solar farm, to the electric grid, energy generators have to submit an interconnection application to a transmission operator, which enters them into a queue. Then the grid operator has to complete a series of studies to measure what equipment and upgrades will be necessary and how much the whole process will cost.
The entire electric grid in the U.S. has installed capacity of 1,250 gigawatts. There are currently 2,020 gigawatts of capacity in the interconnection queue lines around the country, according to a report published in April by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. That includes 1,350 gigawatts of power capacity — mostly clean — looking to be constructed and connected to the grid. The rest, 670 gigawatts, is for storage.
As all this power generation sits waiting in queues, the power grid is maxed out.
Last week, for example, the regional transmission organization that coordinates wholesale electricity movement in 13 states and the District of Columbia, PJM, issued an alert that the latest heatwave may drive electricity demand to the point that would require emergency operations. (In fact, it didn’t, and PJM canceled its alert at 5pm ET on Friday.)
Against this backdrop of an aging grid and soaring demand, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that regulates the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity, on Thursday voted to approve new rules to streamline and speed up the interconnection process.
Getting these rules approved has on its own been a massive bureaucratic effort. FERC took up the process of improving the generator interconnection process in July 2021 and in June 2022 issued specific proposed reforms. The notice of proposed rulemaking announcing those changes received 3,750 pages of comments by October, FERC said. Now, it will take a few more weeks or months for the rules to become official and go into effect.
MCKITTRICK, CA - APRIL 24: Oil pipelines, pumping rigs, and electrical transmission lines dot the landscape along California’s “Petroleum Highway” (Highway 33) running along the northwestern side of the San Joaquin Valley on April 24, 2020, near McKittrick, California. This area is known as the South Belridge Oil Field, and is part of the larger Belridge Producing Complex of Aera Energy LLC, which includes the smaller, but still substantial oil fields of North Belridge, Lost Hills, and Cymric, all in northwestern Kern County and 44 miles west of Bakersfield.
George Rose | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Broadly speaking, the new rules include the following changes:
First-ready, first-served cluster process: Transmission providers have had to conduct separate studies for each power generation source that applies to connect to the grid. Now, transmission providers will be able to conduct larger, regional interconnection studies for clusters of power generation requests.
Also, power generators will have to meet certain requirements to keep their place in the queue, including a financial deposit.
Deadlines and penalties for transmission providers: Transmission providers will have strict deadlines to to respond to power generators waiting in the queue, and will face penalties if they miss those deadlines.
Generators can co-locate and share an interconnection request: The new rule requires transmission providers to allow co-located to submit one interconnection request, and the rule improves the process for this kind of application configuration. Also, power generators will be able to add a source of power to a single interconnection request. The rule also requires transmission providers to consider alternative transmission technologies.
This rule for co-locating is specifically going to help projects that have power generation and battery storage at the same spot. If a power generator wants to add a battery storage component to a project that is already in the queue, this will not qualify as a material modification that would require new studies and more delays.
Why new rules were needed
Among energy nerds, there’s a popular saying: “There’s no transition without transmission.”
For the United States to switch from generating electricity primarily from fossil fuels, like oil and gas, to renewable sources, like wind and solar, the system of wires that carry electricity from where it is generated to where it is used needs to be expanded.
That’s because, with fossil fuels, they could be burned to generate electricity near demand centers. But the most concentrated sources of renewable power are where the wind blows with the most force and the sun shines in the greatest intensity, and those locations are often far from cities and industrial areas.
The systems for building transmission lines developed when electricity demand was relatively flat. So although the process was been slow and burdensome, it wasn’t seen as an urgent problem to fix.
The increasing urgency around climate change has changed all of that. Wind and solar generators want to get their energy on the grid quickly. Also, decarbonizing existing industries often means electrifying them -- the most obvious example being electric vehicles -- which means demand for electricity will increase in coming years.
It can be so expensive to build new transmission, sometimes power generators can’t afford the cost and have to cancel their power generation plans completely. Also, power generators wait for an average of five years in these queues because grid operators are flooded with interconnection queue applications.
Three sources of renewable energy: solar, wind and biogas.
Vw Pics | Universal Images Group | Getty Images
A hard fought and good first step
Generally, energy industry experts saw the vote to approve the rules as a first positive step.
“This order was a major undertaking. It’s impressive that a major nationwide rule was supported unanimously by all four Commissioners given the divisions in energy policy,” Rob Gramlich, the founder and president of the transmission grid policy shop Grid Strategies, told CNBC. “I think it will have a modest impact on moving projects through interconnection queues.”
The new rule increased tightened the interconnection queue application process for both energy generators and transmission operators, Gramlich said. “The final order preserves the balance from the proposed rule in which transmission providers and generators both have stiffer requirements,” Gramlich told CNBC.
Joseph Rand, an energy policy researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who leads the annual study on interconnection queues for the national lab, told CNBC the “rules are an incremental step in the right direction.”
Some of the independent regional grid system operators already have implemented some of the changes FERC voted for, like first-ready first-served cluster studies, Rand told CNBC, but not all transmission is regulated by regional independent system operators. In some parts of the country, utility companies regulate transmission. For those utilities, these rules “will be a bigger change,” Rand said, “and that means something.”
“For the non-ISO utilities, moving to a cluster process will be a big deal — in the ISOs there is pretty strong consensus that cluster studies have been a big improvement over the old serial process,” Rand told CNBC.
Generally, the rules were about what Rand expected to see come out of FERC, but he was surprised to see the financial penalties for transmission operators that don’t deliver interconnection studies.
“The financial penalties imposed on transmission providers for delayed studies could make a big difference, if they are indeed implemented with real teeth,” Rand told CNBC.
Also, the rule changes that will facilitate hybrid power generation and battery storage “could be a very big deal for unlocking storage and hybrid projects in the queues,” Rand said, pointing to the massive amount of battery storage in the interconnection queues already.
Gregory Wetstone, CEO of the non-profit renewable energy group American Council on Renewable Energy, said he was pleased that FERC got the rules approved, “but it is only a start.” He would like to see FERC require long-term transmission planning and for the “dysfunctional” method of paying for transmission upgrades to be reformed, among other things.
Like Wetstone of ACORE, Rand also said he was looking for FERC to institute rule changes surrounding long-term transmission planning.
“To be clear, the new rules, if implemented in tandem with the FERC’s separate proposed rule changes to transmission planning, could make an even bigger difference,” Rand told CNBC. “Much of the current backlog can be attributed to fundamental constraints and underinvestment in transmission — especially the longer-range, interregional variety — and the proposed transmission planning rules would help with that issue.”
“To achieve major impacts, they will need to address transmission planning and cost allocation which are teed up in the other major proposed rule before the Commission,” he told CNBC.
After 9-Month Pause, California Issuing Fracking Permits Again
State oil and gas regulators have granted permits for hydraulic fracturing, the controversial drilling technique known as fracking, for the first time since last summer.The California Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, last week issued permits to Aera Energy, a joint venture of Shell and ExxonMobil, for "well stimulation" work in two Kern County oil fields.CalGEM ...
State oil and gas regulators have granted permits for hydraulic fracturing, the controversial drilling technique known as fracking, for the first time since last summer.
The California Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, last week issued permits to Aera Energy, a joint venture of Shell and ExxonMobil, for "well stimulation" work in two Kern County oil fields.
CalGEM approved permits for 24 Aera wells in the North Belridge and South Belridge oil fields using a method that uses chemically treated high-pressure water to fracture underground rock formations, allowing petroleum to be extracted more freely.
Aera welcomed the approvals, the first the state has issued since they were halted last July. The oil industry is struggling amid a severe drop in demand for gasoline and other fuels as shelter-at-home orders reduce travel.
"These permits come at an especially critical time as the nation is dealing with a public health crisis unlike anything before," said Aera spokeswoman Cindy Pollard.
"This is an unprecedented business environment requiring reductions to our capital and operating expenses," Pollard said.
The permits allow Aera to complete wells the company drilled last year, she said.
Environmentalists from the Bay Area to Southern California slammed the state's decision.
"Unfortunately, the approval of these permits, especially under this public health crisis, is very worrisome for our communities," said Gustavo Aguirre Jr., a Bakersfield project coordinator with the Central California Environmental Justice Network.
The North Belridge oil field is just outside the western Kern County community of Lost Hills, an area activists have said suffers from poor air quality.
"This is just one more element of stress these communities have to deal with," Aguirre said.
Alexandra Nagy, the Los Angeles-based California director for Food and Water Watch, said the state's move showed the "true oily colors" of Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration.
"Despite his pledges to ban fracking and bring California into a clean energy future, Newsom has quietly fallen into line with the corporate fossil fuel interests that have been polluting the state's air and water for decades," Nagy said. "We're putting the governor on notice: We will be fighting his pro-polluter agenda vigorously at every turn."
Hollin Kretzmann, an Oakland-based lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the state needs a permanent ban on fracking, not a brief moratorium.
"In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, the last thing we need is more toxic fracking chemicals in the air we breathe," Kretzmann said. "Public health has never been more endangered and we urge Gov. Newsom to do everything possible to protect our lungs and the environment while responding to the crisis."
The permits come five months after the Department of Conservation, which oversees, CalGEM, asked the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to conduct an independent review of its pending well stimulation permits.
Wade Crowfoot, the secretary for Natural Resources, said the lab review is one part of the Newsom administration's plan to strengthen the state's oversight of the oil and gas industry.
"We remain committed to these values during this time of crisis," Crowfoot said.
State officials say Lawrence Livermore experts established a more robust process for reviewing permit applications and are requiring oil and gas producers to provide more detailed technical disclosures about their fracking plans.
The lab is now working through 282 other permit applications, according to Department of Conservation spokeswoman Teresa Schilling.
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, the chair of the Committee on Natural Resources, praised the Newsom administration for relying on Lawrence Livermore's scientists.
"This is a step in the right direction," Friedman said Tuesday.
"If the state is going to move forward on well stimulation permits, we need to be sure those approvals are science-based, overseen by neutral parties and transparent," she said.
November's changes came at around the same time that the agency imposed a moratorium on new permits for a separate oil extraction technique that uses high-pressure steam and has been linked to a series of large, uncontrolled crude petroleum releases from Chevron wells in the Cymric oil field, also in Kern County.
Those spills, known as surface expressions, were outlawed under regulations implemented a year ago.
Belridge Solar Thermal Power Plant, California
The Belridge solar thermal facility is being built on a 770-acre site. Credit: GlassPoint.The Belridge plant will include solar thermal and photovoltaic facilities. Credit: GlassPoint. The solar plant will use GlassPoint’s enclosed trough technology to generate steam. Credit: GlassPoint. The Belridge solar thermal facility is being built on a 770-acre site. Credit: GlassPoint.Aera Energy has collaborated with GlassPoint to develop the Belridge solar thermal power plant in California, US.Located at the...
The Belridge solar thermal facility is being built on a 770-acre site. Credit: GlassPoint.
The Belridge plant will include solar thermal and photovoltaic facilities. Credit: GlassPoint.
The solar plant will use GlassPoint’s enclosed trough technology to generate steam. Credit: GlassPoint.
The Belridge solar thermal facility is being built on a 770-acre site. Credit: GlassPoint.
Aera Energy has collaborated with GlassPoint to develop the Belridge solar thermal power plant in California, US.
Located at the Belridge oil field located in Kern County on the outskirts of Bakersfield, the solar energy project is touted to be the world’s first such plant as well as California’s largest. It will deliver both steam and electricity to power the operations at the Belridge oil field.
Aera Energy and GlassPoint plan to break ground on the project during the first half of 2019, with operations expected to commence in 2020.
Belridge solar thermal project background
One of the biggest onshore oil fields in the US, the Belridge oil field produces more than 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The field largely produces heavy oil, which is recovered using steam injection technology.
The technology separates and boils the produced water along with the oil into steam and reinjects it into the ground to enable easier recovery of the heavy oil to the surface. The process requires the use of large amounts of natural gas to heat and boil the water into steam. It also results in carbon emissions from the burning of natural gas.
Jointly owned by Shell and ExxonMobil, Aera Energy is undertaking the Belridge solar project to reduce the consumption of natural gas and carbon footprint at its operations.
The Belridge solar thermal project will be built on a 770 acre site near the Belridge oil field. It will consist of an 850MW solar thermal facility, which will deliver 12 million barrels of steam a year, and a 26.5MW photovoltaic (PV) facility, which will deliver electricity.
The solar thermal facility will use GlassPoint’s enclosed trough technology, which uses a curved solar panels set-up enclosed in a greenhouse. The photovoltaic (PV) facility will use PV panels to generate renewable electricity, which will be used for oilfield operations.
Enclosed trough technology at Belridge
GlassPoint’s trough technology was developed specifically for the oil and gas industry and can be seamlessly integrated with existing operations. It includes thinly curved mirrors that are installed inside a greenhouse enclosure, which protects them from high winds and dust.
The mirrors track the sun throughout the day and focus the sunlight onto pipes containing water. The concentrated sunlight boils the water to generate high-pressure steam, which can be fed into the existing steam distribution network at the oil field and directly injected into the oil reservoir.
An automated washing system is incorporated into the system to remove dust and dirt, ensuring the system maintains optimal performance even in harsh conditions. The system is highly efficient and designed to conserve water by recycling 90% of the water used for washing.
Belridge solar thermal project benefits
The solar thermal plant will enable Aera Energy to save approximately 4.87 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas a year that is currently being used at the Belridge oil field for producing steam. It will provide a sustainable solution for energy generation and conserve natural gas resources, which are currently imported from outside the state of California.
The enclosed trough technology used for the project is expected to reduce the plant’s overall cost. The system uses three to five times lesser land and half the amount of steel. Further, the technology utilises water produced from the field, thereby reducing the need for fresh water.
The project will also improve air quality by curbing 376,000t of carbon dioxide emissions a year, which is equal to offsetting emissions from 80,000 cars.
Further, the plant is expected to create 500 jobs during the construction phase, in addition to hundreds of indirect jobs, as well as tax revenue generation.