Controlling Air Emissions

California has the most stringent environmental quality laws and regulations governing oil and natural gas production, transportation, and other commercial and industrial development. As a company operating exclusively in California, California Resources Corporation (CRC) has invested significantly in vapor recovery systems and other emissions control equipment. Smaller companies can be exempt from certain of these laws and regulations. When CRC acquires their properties, the more stringent rules become applicable. The photograph below shows in pink the vapor recovery system that a CRC subsidiary installed, shortly after acquiring the pre-existing oil tank battery from another company, to capture and eliminate sources of air emissions.

Vapor Recovery System

CRC also reduces air emissions through investments in replacing older, less efficient equipment and compressors, replacing diesel or field gas-powered equipment with electrical equipment supplied by Elk Hills and Long Beach power plants, and generating energy from remote field gas through compressed natural gas systems or microturbines. For example, nearly all of the wells at CRC’s flagship Elk Hills and Wilmington Fields are operated with electric pumping units supported by automated control systems.

CRC’s “CalCapture” Carbon Capture and Sequestration Project

CRC has four 2030 Sustainability Goals (JPG) on carbon, methane, water and renewables that align directly with the State of California’s. CRC’s carbon goal is to design and permit California’s first carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) system by mid-decade. Called “CalCapture,” this project would capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the 550-megawatt Elk Hills Power Plant and inject that CO2 into underground oil formations, displacing remaining oil and permanently trapping CO2 deep underground – all while significantly extending the productive life of the Elk Hills Field.

The United Nations has stated that carbon capture technology is necessary to meet the goal of the Paris Climate Accord to limit temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. The CCS project would reduce our statewide CO2 emissions by 30 percent, equivalent to the annual emissions of 250,000 cars. This CCS project would also cut in half the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the oil produced at Elk Hills Field, which is already among the lowest in the state, and put the Elk Hills Power Plant on a path toward becoming a carbon neutral source of base-load electricity for California.

The International Energy Agency calls CCS “one of the only technology solutions that can significantly reduce emissions from…power generation and deliver the deep emissions reductions needed across key industrial processes…, all of which will remain vital building blocks of modern society.” Similarly, the California Energy Commission has previously identified the Elk Hills Field as “an optimal site for the safe and secure sequestration of CO2” and “one of the premier…sequestration sites in the U.S."

CRC has partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute and Fluor Corporation to prepare a Front End Engineering Design (FEED) study for the pioneering Elk Hills CalCapture CCS project in 2020. The FEED study is receiving financial support from both the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – one of only nine projects around the country that the DOE selected in 2019 – and from the climate investment arm of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). CRC has partnered with OGCI Climate Investments to form Elk Hills Carbon LLC. OGCI Climate Investments has invested in Elk Hills Carbon LLC and will provide technical input into the project. Completing the FEED Study is CRC’s sustainability project milestone for the 2030 Carbon Sustainability Goal and is part of incentive compensation for the management team and all employees. CRC envisions the CalCapture project as the central component of a robust future CCS network in California. Learn more by checking out our CCS Project infographic (PDF).

Reporting

CRC reports emissions or activity levels from our facilities to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and regional air districts. Reports are inventoried and periodically made available by CARB. These data are derived using a combination of state-mandated protocols and emission factors, periodic source testing and continuous emissions monitoring equipment for certain facilities.

Ozone Precursor Emissions

Ozone is formed when emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) react in the atmosphere. CARB data reflect that emissions from CRC facilities have been reduced on both an absolute basis and relative to oil and natural gas production (per barrel of oil equivalent) between 2017 and 2019. For example, total emissions of VOC and NOx decreased by 10 and 37 percent, respectively. Similarly, ozone precursor emissions on a per-barrel basis decreased by 13.1 percent over the same period.

NOx and VOC Emissions Continue to Decrease

Other Compounds

Federal and state laws and regulations govern other criteria compounds, such as carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides and particulate matter, that are emitted by a wide variety of commercial, agricultural, industrial and government source types and activities. The emissions are either calculated using government-approved emission factors or measured by government-regulated source tests or continuous emissions monitoring systems. They vary from year to year for a given facility depending on activity levels, the amount of raw materials used and the output produced. In total, emissions of these other criteria compounds decreased from 2015 through 2019 at CRC facilities due primarily to reductions in carbon monoxide.

California’s Air Toxics Hot Spots Act and other federal and state laws and regulations require certain manufacturers, refineries, utilities and oil and gas facilities to evaluate emissions of substances defined as toxic or hazardous air pollutants. Emissions of such compounds from CRC’s facilities are lower than applicable thresholds established by California’s regional air districts and CRC’s facilities are not classified as major sources of those compounds.