Oil Field Surface Expressions

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Under strengthened regulations effective ‪April 1, 2019, surface expressions violate state regulations enforced by the Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM). A surface expression can occur when steam injected under pressure to produce oil breaks through natural geologic barriers and comes to the surface. The releases in the Cymric, Midway Sunset, and McKittrick oil fields in Kern County are not near population centers or sources of drinking water. All of the expressions are contained and are clustered in a few areas.‬ CalGEM​ is collaborating with independent experts from the Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories to investigate the expressions in the Cymric field.‬

Refer to the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) Spill Report​ for additional information ​on specific surface expressions. Use "Search" to enter the incident number, for example, 19-7291 (numbers available below), ​​for reports.

Web Map of Western Kern County

Interactive GIS map of Cymric surface expressions ​​​​

​T​ext in g​old ​​indicates the most recent updates.

Chevron Cymric Gauge Setting 5 Area

  • CalOES Spill Report 20-1575​:​ ​CalGEM is reviewing Chevron's  root cause analysis (submitted April 30, 2020) of an oil and water surface expression (Setting #5 03/19/20) reported from a le​dge above Gauge Setting 5A on March 19, 2020. The flow ceased March 20 and reactivated March 24. The operator drains the ongoing flow into a containment area protecte​d with berms, netting, and beams.​​​ The most recent spill volume report to CalOES was on March 19 (an estimated 80 barrels water and 11 barrels oil)​​​​​​.
  • CalOES Spill Report 18-2037: Began September 13, 2019. Expression inactive since September 15. Recovered volume: 1,290 barrels water and oil. Hillside vent in Gauge Setting 5-D area. ​Area cleaned. Containment remains in place. Seep believed to be reactivation of March 29, 2018 expression. Environmental cleanup complete and site restored.​
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  • CalOES Spill Report 19-5865: ​Began September 10, 2019. Expression inactive since September 18. Recovered volume: 350 barrels water and oil. Expression located in in Gauge Setting 5-C area. Expression reactivation of January 4, 2018 seep. Environmental cleanup complete and site restored.
  • On June 20, 2019, Chevron reported fluid volumes related to a series of surface expressions from 2018 and earlier that are being directed into the GS-5 separation plant. Since these expressions continue to flow after April 1, 2019, they are in violation of the new April 1, 2019 regulations. CalGEM sent Chevron a Notice of Violation on August 23, 2019, directing the company to stop the expressions.

Cymric McKittrick Front

CalOES Spill Report 20-2154: ​Initially reported April 20, 2020; reactivated May 24. Reported volume as of May 28: 1,525 barrels water, 13.5 barrels o​​​il, 415 BBLs mud​.

Chevron Cymric McPhee 36W Area​