NR 2008-17
July 8, 2008

Contact: Ed Wilson
             Don Drysdale

LOS ANGELES -- The California Department of Conservation is in the midst of cleaning up long-abandoned, unsightly and dangerous abandoned oil facilities in a Los Angeles neighborhood.

“This project is one of the biggest and most problematic orphan sites we’ve had to deal with because it’s in a residential neighborhood with deep wells under pressure,” said State Oil and Gas Supervisor Hal Bopp, head of DOC’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources.  “While there isn’t an imminent danger here, the facility was left a mess. We’re pleased to have the end in sight at this location.”

In 2004, DOGGR plugged and abandoned four wells operated by Geo Petroleum in the Rosecrans and Howard Townsite oil fields in the Athens area of South Central Los Angeles. The wells, idle since 1999, were under high pressure and posed a hazard. So far, DOGGR has spent about $1.5 million on remediation work, including the plugging of 26 wells in the two fields, which extend about 20 city blocks.

The current project will cost approximately $150,000 and take place in two phases. First, three production facilities containing 19 storage tanks will be dismantled, the underlying soil scraped to remove any contamination, and the surface leveled with clean fill dirt. Second, 14 previously plugged well heads will be cut off, their associated well cellars removed and the resulting excavations buried with clean fill dirt.

 “The neighbors are excited to get rid of the eyesore,” said Ed Brannon, head of DOGGR’s local district office, located in Cypress. “This project will benefit both public safety and the environment.”

Funding for the project comes from the Hazardous and Idle-Desert Well Abatement Fund, part of an assessment on the petroleum industry. DOGGR is authorized to spend up to $1 million per year to plug and abandon orphan wells. Contractors are hired to do the work and DOGGR supervises the operations to make sure the public is protected. Since 1977, DOGGR has plugged more than 1,100 orphan wells at a cost of $19 million. Currently, there are about 380 wells on the waiting list to be plugged; 19 have been plugged and abandoned this year.

“We update and re-prioritize the list frequently,” Bopp said. “Sites that leak or are close to residential or environmentally sensitive areas are our primary concerns.”

Once the current project is complete, DOGGR estimates that about $100,000 worth of additional work will remain at the sites. That is scheduled to be completed next year.

Geo Petroleum, the owner of the wells, operated in the Los Angeles fields until going bankrupt in 2003. The Rosecrans oil field was discovered in 1924 and the Howard Townsite oil field in 1947. The Rosecrans field has a cumulative production of 84.9 million barrels (more than 3.6 billion gallons), with peak production of 7.7 million barrels in 1925. In 2007, the field produced 187,010 barrels from 51 wells. The Howard Townsite oil field is much smaller, with cumulative production of 6.0 million barrels (peak of 344,000 in 1951). In 2007, the field’s four active wells produced 5,800 barrels of oil.

In addition to regulating oil, gas and geothermal wells, 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.