Fracking Near Vineyards in California a Good Idea?
While winemakers along California's Central Coast take advantage of growing their vines on soils rich with decomposing shale, allowing for better drainage and root penetration, oil companies, too, have taken notice of the region's bountiful supplies.
Although drilling operations alongside the Coast's vineyards aren't exactly a new trend, the way in which oilers are planning on extracting the oil is. The only way to extract shale is with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), blasting water and chemicals at high pressures into the ground to break up the rocks and force the oil or natural gas out. Despite the immense gains shale brings to the energy industry, environmentalists, farmers and, now, winemakers fear that fracking could pollute nearby water supplies and increase the risk of earthquakes. Is it worth the risk? Many states across the country are vehemently debating the question.
On the other Coast, New York has been undergoing a 4-year environmental and health review to determine if fracking will be permitted at all. Now, in California, mineral rights leases have been sold to 17,000 acres on federal lands near vineyards in Southern Monterey, with more to follow in an auction in May. Experts predict the Monterey shale region hosts over 15 billion gallons of oil.
“Oil companies are buying [mineral rights] up, and if oil companies are buying it, they are obviously planning on doing fracking,” Paul Johnson, President of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, told the Wine Spectator. “We just want assurances that the water supply will be kept safe.”
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Should vineyards experience water contamination, the livelihood of many winemakers in the region will be at stake. Those fears may be premature, however, as the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) has said that the amount of water used for fracking is significantly smaller compared to agriculture, taking place thousands of feet below the surface away from groundwater supplies.
Environmentalists remain unconvinced, having witnessed the effects of fracking in areas like Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania—now industrial wastelands.
Easing the public's fears, the WSPA welcomes new regulations as activity moves into the Coastal region.
“We don’t think there’s any reason to not be confident in the safety, but it’s important that people outside the industry also understand that,” said Tupper Hill, a spokesman for WSPA.
The jury is still out on whether oilers will even pursue fracking in the area, noting that it is not clear yet if the geology of the region is compatible with the technique. Until more is known, the oil industry continues to peacefully coexist with agriculture industry in California, where barrels of oil have yet to threaten the country's precious bottles of wine.
Hydrostor receives $4m funding for A-CAES facility in Canada
Hydrostor has received $4m funding to develop a 300-500MW Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) facility in Canada.
The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to plan construction.
The project will be modeled on Hydrostor’s commercially operating Goderich storage facility, providing up to 12 hours of energy storage.
Hydrostor’s A-CAES system supports Canada’s green economic transition by designing, building, and operating emissions-free energy storage facilities, and employing people, suppliers, and technologies from the oil and gas sector.
The Honorable Seamus O’Regan, Jr. Minister of Natural Resources, said: “Investing in clean technology will lower emissions and increase our competitiveness. This is how we get to net zero by 2050.”
A-CAES has the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions by enabling the transition to a cleaner and more flexible electricity grid. Specifically, the low-impact and cost-effective technology will reduce the use of fossil fuels and will provide reliable and bankable energy storage solutions for utilities and regulators, while integrating renewable energy for sustainable growth.
Curtis VanWalleghem, Hydrostor’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are grateful for the federal government’s support of our long duration energy storage solution that is critical to enabling the clean energy transition. This made-in-Canada solution, with the support of NRCan and Sustainable Development Technology Canada, is ready to be widely deployed within Canada and globally to lower electricity rates and decarbonize the electricity sector."
The Rosamond A-CAES 500MW Project is under advanced development and targeting a 2024 launch. It is designed to turn California’s growing solar and wind resources into on-demand peak capacity while allowing for closure of fossil fuel generating stations.
Hydrostor closed US$37 million (C$49 million) in growth financing in September 2019.