SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Santa Maria Energy says a water pipeline to help 136 wells pump oil is only months away from construction. The pipeline is anticipated to ease the burden on our strained water resources.
A steam generator is responsible for pumping massive amounts of steam down into the ground to extract oil through oil wells. The process is called cyclic steaming, an oil extracting method that's considered much less environmentally intrusive than fracking. Everyday, Santa Maria Energy trucks in tens of thousands of recycled water to generate steam for their 26 wells.
An additional 110 wells will be coming in the next couple years. When that happens, 300,000 gallons of water will be used daily. That's a lot of water, but Santa Maria Energy has a solution. The company plans to build an 8-mile long pipeline from the Laguna County Sanitation District wastewater treatment facility to make that load possible.
"We're going to be able to completely take those trucks out of the equation because the water will be delivered via pipeline," said Bob Poole, spokesman for the company. "We'll reduce the emissions, reduce the truck trips."
Along with reducing emissions, the use of wastewater will provide huge relief during the drought.
"We don't need fresh water. We're not going to infringe on groundwater or fresh water resources. That's very important here in California especially in light of the current drought," said Poole.
When the pipeline is completed, the recycled water from the treatment facility will be available for more than just this oil project. Local farmers, parks, and even golf courses will be able to connect to the pipeline.
"We're using water that would otherwise be disposed of," said Poole. "Just a variety of uses of that water without infringing on groundwater, our freshwater resources."
The pipeline project just needs to get it's final permits approved before construction begins. Santa Maria Energy says that should happen in the next few months.