Thursday, September 24, 2009

California's contrasting energy fortunes

A few stories out of California in the past month:

Oxy oil discovery could spark new interest in California's energy potential -- Los Angeles Times
A few years ago, Occidental Petroleum Corp. executive Stephen I. Chazen sounded like a cryptologist out of a Dan Brown novel as he told investors that an oil bonanza awaited any outfit that could "crack the code" of California's seismically fractured underground.

Occidental's engineers may have done it.

The Westwood company revealed in July that it had found the equivalent of 150 million to 250 million barrels of oil and natural gas in an undisclosed part of Kern County using techniques that the oil company's executives would rather not talk about. It was California's biggest find in 35 years.
Energy Company Calls Halt to Drilling Project -- The New York Times
A $17 million energy project in California that was supposed to demonstrate the feasibility of extracting vast amounts of heat from the earth’s bedrock has been suspended indefinitely after the drilling essentially snagged on surface rock formations.

The project, run by AltaRock Energy, represents the Obama administration’s first major test of geothermal energy as a significant alternative to fossil fuels. But since drilling began in June, the project has encountered earthquake fears and scheduling delays.

Last month, federal scientists said that the company had fallen far behind schedule because a huge rig hired to drill down about 12,000 feet, or more than two miles, on federal land had not been able to pierce surface formations called caprock. On Wednesday, the Bureau of Land Management approved a request by AltaRock to halt the drilling operation temporarily, said a bureau spokeswoman, Jan Bedrosian.
Disputed Solar Energy Project in California Desert Is Dropped -- The New York Times
A proposed solar energy project in the California desert that caused intense friction between environmentalists and the developers of renewable energy has been shelved.

BrightSource Energy Inc. had planned a 5,130-acre solar power farm in a remote part of the Mojave Desert, on land previously intended for conservation. The company, based in Oakland, Calif., said Thursday that it was instead seeking an alternative site for the project.

The Wildlands Conservancy, a California environmental group, had tried to block the solar development, as had Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who proposed that the area become a national monument.
For all the talk about the promise of alternative energy it does seem awfully problematic while fossil fuels keep chugging along.

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