State regulators have permanently sealed two oil wells that were deserted by irresponsible operators and seeped small amounts of gas in a residential neighborhood. The wells are part of the Los Angeles City oil field, which dates to the early 1900s.
This project is complete.
Well Site Restoration Has Been Completed - The California Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM, formerly DOGGR) has completed work to seal two old oil wells– including site restoration–in a downtown Los Angeles neighborhood.
The now-permanently sealed wells were in the front yards of two residences on Firmin Street in Echo Park. The wells were part of the Los Angeles City oil field, which dates back to the early 1900s. Unable to find responsible parties to remediate the wells, CalGEM used its “orphan well” fund (an assessment on industry) to plug the wells after reports of minor gas seepage. Residents of the neighborhood were impacted by parking access changes, noise, and dust for several weeks while the project was completed.
Many parts of Los Angeles are built atop former oil fields. Residents wishing to see where their homes are in relation to oil wells, and the status of those wells, can type their address into CalGEM's Well Finder tool. Residents are reminded to call 911 anytime they smell gas.
Background on the Wells
(API# 03718960) and Rogalske 10
(API# 03725662) were both drilled sometime prior to 1903. CalGEM has no subsurface construction records for either well.
Patel 1 has been classified as an “orphan” well since 2006. CalGEM attempted in 2014 to contract the proper sealing of this well, but the bid amounts exceeded the available budget. In 2015, CalGEM received odor complaints across the street from Patel 1. In December 2015, a property owner uncovered the buried H. Rogalske 10 well near the location of the odor complaints. The well was found to be unsecured and leaking. CalGEM decided to remediate both of these potential hazards at the same time.
Patel 1 has been known by a number of names over the years. Between 1977 and 2003, the well produced 9,855 barrels of oil. There are no production records prior to 1977.
There is no record of production from the Rogalske well. The well construction consists of a redwood box casing with an opening measuring 10 inches by 12 inches. Based upon records of similar wells in the area, the well is believed to be between 1,000 and 1,500 feet deep.
Testing conducted on April 25, 2016, showed negligible readings for both methane and hydrogen sulfide at the surface. However, there was a noticeable “rotten egg” smell near the well, indicative of low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide.
CalGEM's "Orphan Wells" Program
One of CalGEM's functions is ensuring that wells for which there is no responsible operator–known as “orphan wells”–are properly plugged and abandoned (that is, permanently sealed).
The funds to do this work come from industry fees. CalGEM is authorized to spend up to $1 million per year to permanently seal wells that have been left deserted. Contractors are hired to do the work and CalGEM supervises the operations to make sure the public is protected.
As of 2016, since 1977, CalGEM has plugged more than 1,350 orphan wells at a cost of more than $27 million. As of December, 2015, there were 107 wells on the waiting list to be plugged; seven have been sealed in 2016. CalGEM prioritizes sites that leak or are close to residential or environmentally sensitive areas.
Additional Project Resources
The following links open PDF files: