California Resources Corp. is based in Santa Clarita but has a sprawling office complex in southwest Bakersfield and extensive oil operations in Kern County.John Cox / The Californian
In preparation for what could be a new avenue in California’s fight against climate change, the state’s first environmental review of a carbon capture and sequestration project kicked off Friday in Kern County.
The review will focus on a plan by local oil producer California Resources Corp. to gather carbon dioxide from various industrial sources and bury it in depleted oil reservoirs using half a dozen injector wells 26 miles southwest of Bakersfield in the Elk Hills Oil Field.
The project is the furthest along of several such proposals geared toward helping California reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. It would earn state and federal financial incentives if operated as envisioned by Santa Clarita-based CRC.
Carbon TerraVault I, as the carbon capture and sequestration project is known, would bury more than 1 million metric tons of CO2 per year — the equivalent of taking 200,000 passenger vehicles off the road — up to a total of 48 million tons.
“CCS projects can have immediate and long-lasting environmental, economic, and employment benefits to our nearby communities — and we are excited our first CCS project EIR is kicking off in Kern County,” CRC said in an emailed statement.
Although the oil industry has increasingly embraced CCS as a way to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, environmental groups remain skeptical, in part because the installations require large amounts of energy and the transport of CO2 over long distances.
The notice of preparation issued Friday by county government said the review will evaluate potential impacts to local air quality, biological and cultural resources, energy usage, seismicity, soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions, hydrology, water quality, mineral resources, hazardous materials, transportation, noise and public services such as fire and police.
The document released Friday says that, before operation may begin, CRC would need injection well permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and, from the county, a zone change from limited agriculture to exclusive ag and a conditional use permit.
The project would also require a habitat conservation plan, a waste discharge permit, building and grading permits, plans for fire safety and dust control, an operating permit and a monitoring and reporting program.
Kern has been identified as an ideal place for CCS because of its wealth of depleted petroleum reservoirs. In addition, the county is equipped with a pipeline network that could be helpful in bringing CO2 to injection wells, though CRC’s proposal says trucks and rail could also be used to haul in the gas.
Friday’s notice did not specify potential sources of the carbon dioxide CTV I would bury. It said those sources will be identified and analyzed in the draft review.
CRC said it has identified a list of reservoirs in California capable of storing up to 1 billion metric tons of CO2. It added it expects to spend about $85 million this year on its carbon management business. It said those costs account for work to advance pending permit applications and begin early-stage development work.
Lorelei Oviatt, Kern’s top planner and director of the county’s Planning and Natural Resources Department, confirmed the review that began Friday is the first for a CCS project in California.
Public input on the project’s draft review is due by 5 p.m. April 4. Anyone may email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A scoping meeting on the county’s environmental review is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. March 18. Information is available online at https://psbweb.co.kern.ca.us/planning/pdfs/notices/carbon_terravault1_nop.pdf.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to state the project is proposed in the Elk Hills Oil Field. It has also been revised to clarify the review is evaluating potential environmental impacts.