CalGEM Lends A Hand in State Lands Commission Summerland Plug and Abandonment Work

​​Five miles east of the city of Santa Barbara, CalGEM stepped in to support the State Lands Commission’s (SLC) plug and abandonment of a coastal hazard and legacy oil and gas well in Summerland Field this summer.  

The former petroleum extraction site is located in the beach sand where a long-gone wooden pier used to serve as surface access. The site has been leaking for decades due to improper well-abandon techniques from nearly a hundred years ago. 

The primary well, known as Olsson 805, is one of four legacy wells in the immediate area. It was drilled in the late 1890s -- a time when there was no regulatory oversight. The wells are among the first offshore wells drilled in the world and were constructed using cable tools from wooden piers. When production ceased for these wells, they were abandoned using primitive techniques, left idle, or damaged beyond repair.  

While SLC led the plugging and abandonment effort for Olsson 805, CalGEM’s role included analyzing the engineering plans, then issuing a permit to re-abandon the well, and witnessing the actual plug and abandonment well work. Given the well’s unique location on the beach, the team worked around the “moon phases” to ensure the tide was at its lowest point before beginning each phase of the work.  

"CalGEM staff worked diligently with its counterpart, State Lands Commission, to plug this hazardous well to fulfill its commitment to protecting public health, safety, and the environment,” said Acting Coastal District Deputy Rohit Sharma. 

The existing well was encapsulated by a one-inch thick steel pile that was hammered into blue clay formation to seal in any potential leaks. The well was then cleaned off and the casing was cleaned out, ensuring a strong bond all around. Cement was pumped over the well up to the top of the steel pile, which was cut off one foot above the original exposed casing, until it completely covered the exposed well. The pile was sealed with a welded steel plate to allow the remaining cement to completely harden inside and created a strong barrier even in high tide.  

Funding for the plug and abandonment came from a SLC fund used to plug and abandon coastal hazard and legacy oil and gas wells under Senate Bill 44, which provided an additional $2 million for the 2021 fiscal year.