Challenges like those in California are specific to certain geographic areas (geology) and projects (heavy oil with steam enhanced oil recovery). Similar challenges also exist in certain parts of Canada. These challenges emphasize the importance of risk analysis, geologic analysis, and engineering design for oil and gas projects. Oil and gas companies want to minimize these risks as they do not contribute to a healthy business model or public image. Their solutions will tend to be technical. Often, when problems become repetitive and negatively impact the environment, and especially when they result in loss of life, governments and regulatory agencies get involved and respond with changes.
As of April 1, 2019, surface expressions are illegal in California. And on November 18, 2019, CalGEM issued a notice to operators suspending new high-pressure cyclic steaming permit applications. This notice allows existing cyclic steam projects to continue, but permits for new projects are on hold. This moratorium is in place while CalGEM and experts from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory evaluate whether high-pressure cyclic steaming can be done safely and in compliance with recent regulations that make surface expressions illegal.1CalGEM. (n.d.). High-energy surface expressions. A Story Map. https://cadoc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=4f6b21eb4e224cab9e86fbb763a41307
Depending on the review and its findings, CalGEM lists the following potential outcomes:2CalGEM. (n.d.). High-energy surface expressions. A Story Map. https://cadoc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=4f6b21eb4e224cab9e86fbb763a41307
- New safety requirements
- Updated regulations
- Indefinite halt on new projects in the area
You may wish to follow this hot topic in the news and see how things develop.