Santa Maria Energy is building an eight mile long pipeline to transfer treated wastewater throughout northern Santa Barbara County. Once complete, the pipeline will be owned and operated by Santa Barbara County. The water can be used for irrigation purposes in agricultural fields, golf courses and county parks. Santa Maria Energy owns 26 oil wells just outside Los Alamos. The company will add an additional 110 wells over the next few years. The oil is pulled from the ground using a process called Cyclic Steaming, which injects steam and gas into the rock and pushes oil out without fracturing the rock. This process is water intensive, and that's why the company has turned to wastewater during California's drought. "We're going to put in an additional 110 wells in addition to the 26 we have now to steam the oil out of the ground," said Santa Maria Energy Spokesman Bob Poole. But in order to do that, they're going to need about 300,000 gallons of water a day and that's tough to come by. Due to the drought, engineers have turned to the abundance of treated wastewater. The plan is to build the $8 million pipeline to transport the water from the Laguna County Treatment Plant eight miles south to the project site. "So we're going to use this reclaimed water. We're going to recycle it, to get oil out of the ground," said Poole. Santa Maria Energy currently trucks in the treated water, about 65,000 gallons a day. However, each truck only holds about 5,000 gallons. "The pipeline is going to enable us to eliminate those truck trips," said Poole. "We will eliminate the traffic on the road and we're going to eliminate the emissions from those trucks." While Santa Maria Energy does benefit from the pipeline, they say the county will as well. Once complete, it will deliver the water to people who need it, such as golf courses, city and county parks, and certain crop fields. "Wherever you can utilize other resources, in this case reclaimed water to recycle, then you are not impacting the ground water, the fresh water, that needs to be used for human consumption," said Poole. Santa Maria Energy will also be paying for the wastewater they use for their steaming process which will add additional revenue to the county. The Laguna County Treatment Plant treats 2 million gallons of water a day and provides it to local farmers every day. The facility can actually treat up to 3.7 million gallons a day, but is limited by the delivery options. The new pipeline will allow more people to take advantage of this reusable resource. The company still needs several permits before work can begin.
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