NR 2002-02
January 25, 2002

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886


SACRAMENTO -- Culver City Park will soon be free of remnants of a deserted oil field operation -- an eyesore and potential environmental and health hazard -- thanks to Governor Gray Davis and the California Department of Conservation.

Culver City Mayor Edward Wolkowitz will conduct a ceremony to express the city's appreciation at 10 a.m. today at the park, 9530 Jefferson Blvd. in Culver City. California Secretary for Resources Mary Nichols and Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young are scheduled to attend.

The site, located within the Inglewood oil field, includes six idle wells and an associated production facility consisting of 10 storage tanks, dehydration equipment for separating oil from water, and shipping lines. Two of the idle wells are adjacent to a playground and a skateboard park. Another is next to a baseball diamond.

An environmental inspector from DOC's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources assessed the site in May of 2001, and his report raised a red flag. The inspector found combustible gas leaks near the wellheads, residual oil on the ground, well cellars containing oil and water, some unlabeled chemical drums, and the potential for oil to run off the lease during storms and drain into Ballona Creek, which empties into the ocean. Only one of the 10 tanks had fluid in it -- about 21,000 gallons of oil and water -- but some were surrounded by 6- to 8-inch thick crude oil that had leaked out.

"This was a very messy site," DOC Director Young said. "We decided that something needed to be done immediately. The first good rain was going to wash oil into the street, down a storm drain and into the ocean. In addition, the site posed potential physical hazards. Someone going into the site could have been injured."

At a cost of about $132,000, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources brought in Pacific Engineering Contractors to clean up surface hazards at the site. PEC dismantled the pumping units and sold them for scrap, demolished and removed the tanks, and hauled away the contaminated soil. Seven hundred tons of soil were run through an incinerator to remove the contaminants. Some of the clean dirt was then brought back to the park. That work began July 20, 2001 and ended September 13, 2001.

"Once the environmental and physical hazards at the tank farms were addressed, our attention turned to plugging and abandoning the wells," Director Young said.

DOGGR has contracted with Allenco to do that work, at a cost of about $216,000. In the plugging process, a portable rig is placed over the well. Cement and special drilling mud are pumped alternately into the well casing through tubing. When the cement hardens, it stops oil, gas and water from entering the well and migrating to the surface. The mud acts as a secondary barrier.

One well has been plugged and abandoned already. The work is ongoing and should be complete within several months. All that will remain where the wells and pumping units were will be graded soil.

Oil production began in the park area in the early 1940s. The City of Culver City acquired the park site in 1977. When the Blackhawk Oil Company deserted the field in 1991, the city began to worry about potential health and safety risks, as well as the aesthetics of having all the associated machinery in a park setting.

"The city didn't have the money to dispose of the equipment and plug and abandon the wells, so the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources stepped in and took decisive action," said Secretary Nichols, who heads DOC's parent agency. "This is a good example of cooperation between state and local government to solve a problem."

Since 1976, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has conducted the plugging and abandonment of 768 hazardous and idle-deserted wells around the state at a cost of nearly $10.9 million, which comes from an assessment on the petroleum industry. This year, 58 wells are scheduled for plugging and abandonment, including those in Culver City. This is the first time DOGGR has dealt with wells in a city park.