NR 2007-11
May 23, 2007

Contact: Don Drysdale
Mark Oldfield
Carrie Reinsimar
(916) 323-1886


OXNARD – The California Department of Conservation (DOC) has finished work to dismantle an “orphaned” oil production and storage site, eliminating an eyesore and potential public safety risk.

“This facility was by far the worst orphan tank site in our district,” said Bruce Hesson, District Deputy in charge of the department’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) Ventura office. “Not only does the removal of this tank facility dramatically improve the appearance of the site, it precludes the potential for illegal dumping and vandalism, and has eliminated the chance of future spills.”

Non-producing wells are considered “idle” as long as operators maintain them in accordance with state regulations and have a plan to put them back into production or plug and abandon them, a process that permanently seals the well. However, when no responsible party is associated with a well, it is considered an “orphan,” and the state intervenes. DOGGR worked to remediate the site in response to a request from the Ventura County Department of Environmental Health.

DOGGR oversees the Orphan Well Plugging Fund, part of an assessment funded by the petroleum industry. DOGGR is authorized to spend up to $1 million per year to plug and abandon orphan wells. Contractors are hired to complete the work while DOGGR supervises the operation to ensure public safety. Since 1977, DOGGR has plugged 1,014 orphan wells at a cost of more than $17.4 million. There are more than 400 wells on the waiting list to be plugged; 42 have been plugged and abandoned around the state this year.

Geo Petroleum Inc., a small company based in Yorba Linda, operated the Oxnard facility from 1990 until March 2004, when the company ceased operation. Its facilities around the state were declared deserted. Although the Oxnard site was secured, vandalism caused a 30-barrel oil spill in December 2005 that DOGGR paid to cleaned up.

“This was a significant project because of its high visibility and the history of vandalism there,” State Oil and Gas Supervisor Hal Bopp said. “We plugged and abandoned two orphaned wells and removed tanks, pipelines and other surface facilities that were a target for graffiti. The site is on a major road into Oxnard (along Fifth Street and near an Amtrak Line) and was a blight on the landscape.”

The project involved several preliminary steps: photo documentation of the site, determining the tank capacities and fluid levels, fluid sampling and laboratory analysis, and an asbestos assessment.

DOGGR contracted with Bakersfield-based MMI Services to plug and abandon the two wells. Nix Demolition, also of Bakersfield, handled removal of the above-ground material. Eleven tanks ranging from 250 barrels to 10,000 barrels in size (one barrel equals 42 gallons) and associated production equipment were removed from the site.

Vacuum trucks removed about 4,000 barrels of fluid from five tanks prior to demolition. The material was transported to a permitted disposal/recycling center in Bakersfield and the metal tank walls were cut into small pieces for transport to a salvage center.

Ventura County released a $10,000 bond posted by Geo Petroleum to DOGGR to help toward the total cleanup cost of $219,000. Unforeseen costs – such as soil contamination discovered during excavation work – were recouped through the sale of salvaged steam generators.

DOGGR’s Ventura office oversees operations in Ventura and northwestern Los Angeles counties, an area that produced 9.4 million barrels of oil and 8.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2006.

DOGGR ensures the safe exploration and development of energy resources, overseeing the construction, operation and closure of oil, gas and geothermal wells, an important step in guarding drinking and agricultural waters against pollution. Records for more than 190,000 oil, gas, and geothermal wells, production and injection statistics, well logs and field maps are available at the division's nine field offices. Some of this information is available at

In addition to regulating oil, natural gas and geothermal wells, the DOC studies and maps earthquakes and other geologic phenomena; maps and classifies areas containing mineral deposits; ensures reclamation of land used for mining; administers agricultural and open-space land conservation programs; and promotes beverage container recycling.