Marina del Rey Well Remediation

Photo of the old oil well, DOW RGC 10, in Marina del Rey, in LA county.

The DOW R.G.C. 10 well in Marina Del Rey is now permanently sealed following a blowout on January 11, 2019.  

The blowout occurred as a contractor performed well re-abandonment procedures on the previously abandoned well in a heavily populated area next to a marina in Marina del Rey. The contractor, InterAct, encountered pressurized natural gas during the work, which resulted in a release of gas, water, and mud. The blowout was capped after a reported 10 minutes.  

Los Angeles County entities, as the property owner, intend to review well-site conditions, as well as consider a long-term, air monitoring program with the property lessee, MDR. MDR is continuing air quality monitoring until a permanent monitoring program is in place. MDR is building a hotel at the site.

The Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM, formerly DOGGR) ordered MDR to hire a third party to perform a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) of the event. The operator contracted with Exponent, an engineering and scientific consulting firm, to produce the RCA report, which lists six potential causal factors for the blowout. 

The Department of Conservation, Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM, formerly DOGGR) provides this report for informational purposes. The report was supplied by third parties and while CalGEM believes some of the content may be reliable, CalGEM otherwise provides no warranty, either expressed or implied, regarding the technical merits, accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, or usefulness of information in the report.


After receiving notification of the incident, CalGEM immediately responded to the scene and engaged with the operator and contractor on their efforts to bring the well under control. 

After ongoing discussions with the operator and contractor of the well, CalGEM​ on January 18 issued an Emergency Order (PDF) to:
  1. bring the well under control and 
  2. permanently plug the well, including cementing off the anomalous gas zone(s), to protect public health and the environment in this densely populated area. 
The Order also required a battery of tests to determine why the incident occurred and whether there was further damage underground that could pose a problem in the future. The California Office of Emergency Services (OES) and the Los Angeles County Fire Department established a unified command center.

  • A land developer, MDR Hotels LLC, leased property from Los Angeles County on the Marina del Rey waterfront to build two hotels. Well Dow R.G.C. 10, API 037-13798, is on the property, and is within 30 feet of a public sidewalk, 50 feet of a road, and 100 feet of residences. MDR is technically the well “operator” under state law and thus received the emergency order.
  • The well was drilled to a depth of 3,903 feet in 1931 into the Playa del Rey oil field. It was permanently sealed (plugged and abandoned) according to the requirements of the time in 1956 and again in 1959.
  • In June 2018, CalGEM issued a permit to the developer to re-plug the well to current standards. Even after a well has been properly sealed to current standards, CalGEM recommends that no construction occur over a well or in such a way as to impede access to a well. The final decision regarding construction over or near a well is made by local land use authorities. 
  • On January 11, 2019, the re-abandonment contractor, InterAct, encountered a “gas kick” while pulling tubing (pipes) out of the well. That is, there was a buildup of pressure within the well casing. Natural gas, water, and mud blew out of the well to a height of about 100 feet for several minutes.  Initial reports estimated the height at about 60 feet; after further investigation CalGEM​ revised that figure to 100 feet. The contractor’s report to Cal OES estimated the release at about 100,000 cubic feet of natural gas with no hydrogen sulfide (H2S).  
  • The contractor used the well’s required blowout prevention (BOP) equipment at the wellhead to temporarily seal the well and stop the flow of fluid, including gas.  
  • Shortly thereafter, CalGEM, the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife responded to the scene. At CalGEM’s request, OES established a unified command to manage the incident. The Los Angeles County Fire Department served as the incident commander.
  • CalGEM ordered the operator to monitor for signs of potential gas migration to the surface outside the well and to capture any gas samples for geochemical analysis. Construction of the hotel was temporarily stopped to ensure worker safety.
  • CalGEM field engineers remained onsite to monitor the well control operations until routine abandonment operations resumed.
  • The blowout prompted CalGEM and other regulators to question the structural integrity of the well, resulting in the emergency order. There were eight immediate requirements, including:
    •  Immediately establishing continuous (24/7) well control operations until the gas zone(s) are isolated.
    • Establishing of a safety perimeter to limit public access to the area around the well.
    • Continuous monitoring and recording of well pressure, with daily reports to CalGEM.
    • Twice-a-day inspections of the well site, construction site, harbor, and surrounding area for signs of gas or fluids coming to the surface. This includes using optical gas imaging and other monitoring equipment, with daily reports to CalGEM.
    • Submission of a plan to CalGEM for the above work within 12 hours of receiving the order.
    • Within 24 hours, submission of a plan for CalGEM​ approval, including the operator’s proposed actions to stabilize the well; run diagnostics to determine gas migration pathways inside the well and out; evaluate the casing and cement integrity; identify gas-bearing zones; and any other activities necessary to end potential gas migration and to properly plug and abandon the well.
  • The Order also includeed some non-emergency requirements, notably the completion–facilitated by an independent third party–of a root cause analysis detailing the factors leading to the loss of well control and release of gas and fluids.
  • The evidence indicated the leaked gas originated from a naturally existing geologic formation and not a man-made gas storage reservoir. The well was not drilled into a gas storage field, and the samples of released gas showed a chemical signature that was not characteristic of stored gas. The well history also pointed to the released gas originating from a depth that was consistent with historic natural gas presence and inconsistent with stored gas.

Marina del Rey Well Remediation Fact Sheet (PDF download)