Monday, February 09, 2009

Welcome to the Clue Bus

Over at Q&O, Bruce McQuain toured Chevron’s Kern River Basin oil fields in Bakersfield, California. Chevron paid for the trip for four bloggers in order to get their side of the story out. And what a story it is.

Give all of that, however, there was something else I learned that just blew my mind - while they’re producing that 80,000 bpd of oil, they’re also pumping up 555,000 bpd of water. In fact they joke about really being a water production facility which produces oil as a by-product. That’s more true than you might imagine. But it also means they must process a half a million barrels of water a day, separate the oil from it and do something with the remaining water. This is where it gets interesting. You heard Jane mention they process and purify some of it through walnut shell filters for agricultural use. In fact, they have about 272,000 bpd in excess that they send through that process and then is sold to California for use in growing all those luscious veggies Californians are so wild about. My guess is that most of California has no idea that’s the case.

So what do they do with the remaining 231,000 bpd of the water they pump up? They make steam. Lots and lots of steam. And that brings us to something else of which I’m pretty sure the average Californian isn’t aware. Part of that steam powers up to 20% of the Californian electrical grid. It’s called ‘cogeneration’, and Chevron has actually built plants on the field which are plugged into the California power grid and provide on-demand electricity. They use the waste steam generated in the steam injection process to power these plants. Clean energy and highly efficient clean production.

Electricity and water are two things that California needs more of, and here we have a big ol' evil corporation providing it. They probably put dozens of electricity fairies and dryads out of work doing it too.