Energy Exchange

California’s move to cut utility gas leaks is a critical part of moving towards a low carbon future

As shown by the recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, emissions from fossil fuel combustion in California and elsewhere present dire consequences for the planet. This means California, like the rest of the world, must take real steps now to shift toward a low carbon future.

Similar to many other developed economies, California has a vast oil and gas delivery infrastructure that is integrated into its modern way of life – a system that supports the combustion of fossil fuels in nearly every corner of society. As a result, making dramatic shifts toward a carbon neutral economy as envisioned in a recent executive order by Governor Brown will take a lot of investment. While this investment is underway, it’s appropriate to also make sure the system that delivers energy to homes and businesses is as environmentally benign as possible.

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Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Gas to Clean, General, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

What this summer's heat waves tell us about America's electric grid

With another triple-digit heat wave scorching the Southwest this week, fears of widespread outages are back.

California’s grid operator has urged homes and businesses to crank up thermostats and avoid running power-hungry appliances during evening peak hours – all in an effort to avoid disruptions like the ones we saw earlier this month.

The dangerous and expensive outages that left 80,000 Los Angeles residents in the dark then may have been limited to Southern California, but they should sound alarms nationwide. The world is changing, affecting how our grid works.

Utilities are taking steps to adapt and expand their power systems to maintain reliability and accommodate the growth of renewables, but they need to pick up the pace – and fast. Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy / Comments are closed

Pollution monitors should be standard in LA’s oilfields

There are several reasons to be optimistic about environmental progress in Los Angeles. The city is making massive investments in electric vehicles, making clean energy more accessible to everyday people, and cutting pollution from the ports and freeways to name a few. But with over 60,000 Angelinos living less than 500 feet from an active oil well – LA could do more to protect our health and our environment.

Oil and gas wells emit toxic chemicals that can increase our risk of developing asthma, cancer and other health problems. Recent studies by the California Air Resources Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District have uncovered elevated levels of benzene, a cancer causing agent, and other toxic compounds coming from oil and gas equipment in Huntington Beach and Signal Hill. In Santa Fe Springs  a rupture at an oil site coated numerous homes with oil and generated noxious odors.  Then there are the communities in Culver City, South LA, Compton and elsewhere living mere feet from drill sites who experience odors and health ailments on a regular basis. Most notoriously, the Porter Ranch community next to the Aliso Canyon gas field still reports respiratory problems and other symptoms stemming from a major gas leak in 2015.

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Posted in Air Quality, Aliso Canyon, California, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

NASA helped locate over 300 methane hot spots across California

Last week the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Energy Commission (CEC) released interim results from a NASA study that offers the most clear-eyed assessment yet of California’s largest individual sources of methane pollution.

Methane – a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about a quarter of global warming – is emitted from several different sources, including refineries, landfills, dairy farms, and oil and gas facilities. This new study identifies 329 of the largest pollution sources and offers insights to policy makers about opportunities for reducing these emissions.

Here are four key takeaways from the latest research.

California must focus on super emitters to cut pollution

Previous studies in other regions have shown that when it comes to methane, a small set of high-emitting sites, known as “super emitters” tend to be responsible for a significant amount of total emissions. The new CARB study suggests the same is likely occurring in California (measurements of actual amounts of the methane will be released in the second phase of the project next year).  Many times these super emitters occur randomly, such as when a major piece of equipment breaks and releases a large amount of pollution. Other times, as this study shows, these sites can be landfills, dairy farms, and refineries that simply release a lot of pollution.  Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, California, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Californians benefit from continuous pollution monitoring at oil and gas sites

Sophia Brewer, Oil and Gas Intern, contributed to this article.

Since the 1892 discovery of oil in California, the oil and gas industry has been a major economic engine and energy supplier for the state. Although this oil and gas production may be broken down into dollars and barrels, it doesn’t tell the story of the potential impact of drilling activity on the lives of the people in Los Angeles and the Central Valley who live right next to these operations.

While some production sites may be meeting stringent operational and environmental standards, others may not –there simply isn’t data to discern which is which – and that is where monitoring comes in. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, California, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Whether it’s safe or not, do we need Aliso Canyon?

In early 2016, southern California awoke to the harsh reality that reliable operation of the regional energy system might be tied to a single aging natural gas storage field called Aliso Canyon, where a catastrophic blowout that started the previous October was not closed until February. So while Southern California Gas Company got to work to repair the facility, several government and private institutions also went to work assessing whether the facility was actually needed in the first place.

Last week multiple state agencies issued a verdict that Aliso Canyon is now safe, and giving the green light to increase the gas stored in it on a limited basis. The decision caused an outcry from nearby residents, but it should also be a concern for utility customers throughout the region.

But what if we don’t need the facility at all? Why take the risk? The latest analysis strongly suggests we don’t have to. Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed