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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 3rd, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 39 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 39

Santa Maria Energy moves forward with its well expansion project


The 30-day waiting period after the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors’ Nov. 12 decision to approve the Santa Maria Energy well expansion project—with an emissions caveat—is almost up.

And because Santa Maria Energy opted not to pursue litigation on the project approval, the company will most likely be able to get cracking on permit applications and ordering equipment in mid-December.

When supervisors voted last month to approve the project, the majority of the board was swayed to place a greenhouse gas emissions limit of 10,000 metric tons on it. At the time, Santa Maria Energy officials made it clear that they didn’t think the emissions limit would be defensible in court.

And while they still think the decision wouldn’t hold up in court, Santa Maria Energy spokesperson Bob Poole said it’s time to move on.

“We didn’t want to delay [the project] any longer,” Poole said. “We’ve got to get oil out of the ground and fulfill our obligations.”

Project plans call for installing a six-mile pipeline to pull recycled water from the Laguna County Sanitation District for use in cyclic steam-injection wells. With a 26-well pilot project already in place, the plans also call for the drilling of an additional 110 wells to pull oil out of diatomite formations in the Monterey Shale—located roughly 800 to 1,000 feet below the surface.

Steam is injected at high pressure into the wells and pools in the oil reservoir, and the heat produced loosens viscous substances from their deposit holes in the diatomite. That oil is then brought back up to the surface, where it’s separated from the water and sold as crude. Two gigantic burners would combust natural gas to heat water into steam, which is where the emissions come into play.

There will be a maximum output of 88,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions once the project is completed. Poole said he expects wells to be completed in phases and that the company should finish build-out in two years.

The emissions portion of the project has held up forward movement since March, when plans initially came before the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission. County planning staffers recommended Santa Maria Energy be required to mitigate its emissions down by 29 percent, which is almost two times higher than what’s mandated by California.

Environmental advocates—the loudest of which was the Environmental Defense Center—demanded a stricter emissions limit to govern the project. Advocates got their way at the Nov. 12 meeting.

The 68,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases Santa Maria Energy needs to get rid of will be mitigated in the form of purchased credits, created when a company reduces their emissions output; that company then has something to sell on the cap-and-trade market.

How much extra will those credits cost Santa Maria Energy?

“There’s no way to tell at this point,” Poole said. “Markets are still developing and are affected by supply and demand.”

Weekly Poll
What do you think about a farmworker resource center in Santa Barbara County?

It's a great way to create a network of collaboration and reach people in need.
It's been needed in the county for a long time and should have been made earlier.
We don't have the funding now, but we should come up with ideas in the meantime.
We don't need it. There are plenty of resources readily available.

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