Pacific Section AAPG Convention

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Case Study: An Innovative Public-Private Partnership For Re-Use Of Treated Residential Water In A Steam Generation Project In Santa Barbara County, California


Santa Barbara County, California has a long history of environmental leadership and an even longer history of oil development, both offshore and on. As a result, Santa Barbara County has developed a comprehensive regulatory framework and infrastructure to address perceived environmental concerns beyond those at the state and federal levels. Our company, Santa Maria Energy, LLC accepted and met these challenges head-on by designing our state-of-the art project in the Orcutt field to not only fully comply with arguably the most stringent operating regulations anywhere but also incorporating innovative solutions to reduce, reuse and recycle our natural resources in the course of producing energy. Our approved project consists of two related but independent projects, oil production and water reclamation. The Santa Maria Energy Project is to drill, outfit and operate 136 new production wells utilizing the enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technique known as cyclic steaming to produce oil from the local Sisquoc diatomite reservoir. Laguna County Sanitation District Recycled Water Pipeline Project is the construction and installation of an 8-mile underground pipeline to deliver reclaimed wastewater to the Santa Maria Energy project site for steam generation. Project environmental benefits include producing vital domestic petroleum resources in a very safe and sound manner. The project uses reclaimed wastewater in lieu of groundwater for steam generation/oil recovery. The Laguna Pipeline built to supply SME's project will provide ‘upstream’ access to other users of reclaimed water. Additional environmental benefits are accrued because they are paid for by the success of the oil operation. Included is the protection of endangered and threatened biological resources, including setting aside in perpetuity critical habitat for the preservation of a unique subspecies of California Tiger Salamander. The production project uses natural gas already produced and previously flared to generate steam. Our paper will provide a full description and discussion of the diatomite reservoir, the process of extracting oil from this reservoir, governing local/state/federal regulations and both the innovative environmental solutions listed above along with those not mentioned and the various economic benefits as well.