May 17, 2020

Open season in the Atlantic

4 min
Open season in the Atlantic

There was a collective green gasp late last month when President Barack Obama announced a proposal to open part of the eastern seaboard, the Gulf Co...

There was a collective green gasp late last month when President Barack Obama announced a proposal to open part of the eastern seaboard, the Gulf Coast and Arctic sea to offshore oil drilling.

“We’re appalled that the president is unleashing a wholesale assault on the oceans,” says Oceana Senior Campaign Director Jacqueline Savitz. “Expanding offshore drilling is the wrong move if the Obama administration is serious about improving energy security, creating lasting jobs and averting climate change.”

And that was only the start. The Sierra Club, The National Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace and scores of other green organizations condemned the Obama Administration's proposal.

The drilling debate is particularly hot along the Virginia coast where state officials and about 70 percent of the Commonwealth's residents are hoping to see leases signed with major energy suppliers sometime within the next 18 to 24 months. Virginians are committed to the idea of freeing the United States from its dependence on foreign oil and plumping up state coffers with royalties from oil sales.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, believe coastal communities and industries are far more valuable than the offshore oil reserves. “Opening the South Atlantic Coast to oil and gas drilling will do nothing to address climate change, provide only about six months worth of oil, and put at risk multi-billion dollar tourism and fisheries industries. One oil spill could devastate a coast,” said Deb Carter, director, Carolinas Office of the Southern Environmental Law Center.”

So far, green organizations and the administration of  Virginia's Governor Bob McDonnell are the only players who have their cards on the table. Environmental groups have promised to fight offshore drilling with PR campaigns and court challenges, and their word is good. McDonnell and the majority of the state's residents will watch and no doubt root for the pro-drilling faction. As for who might do the drilling, that's not clear yet.

The problem is that no one knows for certain how much oil and gas is out there, and estimates vary wildly. The federal government's Mineral Management Service estimates  that the 2.9 million acre area that will be up for lease contains 130 million barrels of oil, enough to supply Virginia’s  energy needs for  about seven months. However, MMS also admits that estimate is based on  a 30-year old study that's badly out of date.

Oil companies have made their own estimates but they are holding those numbers close to their vests. However, some updated estimates based on different models suggest there could be from two to seven billion barrels of oil off Virginia's coast and 36 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

 Most people watching the drilling debate play out agree those numbers are high and they are waiting for real data. So far, seven geophysical exploration companies – Schlumberger subsidiary WesternGeco, Seabird Exploration, CGG Veritas, GX Technology, TGS Nopec and Spectrum Geo – have applied for permits to explore the area. The seismic companies intend to peddle the results of the tests in a multi-client fashion to interested energy producers who will then use the information to decide whether or not to bid on an offshore oil lease.

Once a lease is awarded, there is survey work required, an exploration plan must be submitted and approved and an oil rig must be constructed. Then there's an environmental impact statement that will weigh the value of energy reserves against possible environmental damage. Those hearings are several years off and there's no doubt environmental groups have already started amassing information to use in their fight to stop any drilling. 

It generally takes a minimum of seven years for an offshore lease sale to undergo the required environmental reviews before producing oil or gas, but because this would be the first drilling off the East Coast, may take even longer.

Oil is measured in what the industry sometimes calls easy and hard barrels. Easy barrels come from humming onshore oil wells pumping soft ground somewhere in Texas. Hard barrels are sucked out of the continental shelf 50 miles out into the windy and unpredictable Atlantic. 

The differences in the costs of producing onshore and offshore oil are dramatic. Add that to a seven-year environmental review, legal challenges and the cost of an offshore lease and you eliminate any small oil companies from the competition of bidding for offshore drilling rights.

Although no plans have been announced analysts have predicted any new leases are likely to go to the oil giants – Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell.


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Apr 16, 2021

Hydrostor receives $4m funding for A-CAES facility in Canada

Dominic Ellis
2 min
The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to take critical steps toward construction
The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to take critical steps toward construction...

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.

The project has support from Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Innovation Program and Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

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. 

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