CalGEM Releases 2020 Annual Permit Summary

​​​​​​​​​​Well Plugging Permits Outpace New Drilling Permits for Second Consecutive Year

January 20, 2021

SACRAMENTO -- The California Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM) Division reported today that 2020 permits to drill new wells (all well types) in California were down nearly 23% compared to 2019.

In addition, a record high 3,238 permits were issued to safely plug and permanently seal wells in 2020, outpacing the number of permits issued for new drilling permits by approximately 65%. New state policies, combined with increased enforcement by CalGEM, are driving the increase in oil and gas operators permanently removing wells from operation.​

Permits for hydraulic fracturing in 2020 were at the lowest number in state history, with a total of 83 issued in 2020 compared to an average of approximately 220 per year since 2016. CalGEM also denied 57 hydraulic fracturing permits in 2020, a state record.

The number of new wells where drilling operations have begun (spudded, in industry terms) in 2020 decreased significantly, with 138 wells spudded in 2020 compared to 1,032 in 2019 – a decrease of more than 87%.

“CalGEM remains committed to using science and sound engineering practices in its regulatory efforts, implementing state laws and regulations, and improving oversight in a transparent manner,” State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk said. ​

As CalGEM has previously reported, oil extraction continues to decrease each year and is at its lowest level in state history, down 68% since peak extraction in 1985. At the same time, the state’s regulatory oversight over oil extraction has improved. 

CalGEM also is in the process of developing new rules​ to strengthen health and safety protections for workers and communities near oil and gas production. 

Additional facts about oil and gas permit activity in 2020 as compared to 2019 include: 

  • New well drilling permits for cyclic stream extraction and injection wells are down 90%.​
  • New well drilling permits for steam flooding are down 77%. 
  • All types of wells where drilling has started (spudded) are down more than 87%.
  • Permits to rework existing wells are down 20%. 
  • New well permits in the category called “conventional oil and gas extraction wells” are up 91% compared to 2019. This category, which covers only wells drilled for conventional oil extraction, is one of several categories of permits for new extraction wells. The increase in this category is largely attributed to a short term increase in permit applications in Kern County following a court decision last year regarding the county’s oil and gas ordinance.
  • Well drilling permits are valid for two years from the receipt of the operator's notice of intent to drill. A well stimulation treatment (WST) permit is required for hydraulic fracturing, and WST permits are valid for one year following the date the permit is issued.

    ​Established in 1915, CalGEM is tasked with regulatory jurisdiction over oil and gas fields, underground natural gas storage facilities, and geothermal energy operations. Regulatory authority covers the upstream (oil fields) portion of the oil industry which includes more than 242,000 wells across California, including nearly 101,300 which are defined as active or idle oil producers. For more information, visit CalGEM's website.

​Q1-Q4 2020 Permitted

​W​​ell Type
​Abandon
​Deepen
​New Drill
​Re-Abandon
​Rework
​Sidetrack
​Cyclic steam extraction & injection wells
​6​​​36
​1
​115
​5
​239
​​45
​Dry gas extraction wells
​18
​0
​1
​1
​9
​1
​Dry hole wells
​1
​0
​0
​4
​0
​​0
​​Gas extraction wells
​0
​0
​0
​0
​0
​0
​Gas disposal wells
​6
​0
​2
​1
​3
​0
​Gas storage wells
​15
​0
​1
​0
​63
​2
​Injection wells
​2
​1
​0
​0
​6
​1
​Multi-purpose wells
​9
​0
​0
​3
​17
​13
Observation wells​
​179
​1
​116
​2
​33
​21
​Conventional oil & gas extraction wells
​1,946
​19
​1,656
​164
​674
​138
​Pressure maintenance wells
​0
​0
​0
​0
​0
​0
​Steamflood injection wells 
​380
​0
​70
​1
​239
​2
​Unknown
​10
​2
​0
​0
​8
​1
​Water disposal wells
​32
​0
​1
​0
​68
​1
​Water flood wells
​0
​0
​0
​0
​0
​0
​Water source wells
​4
​0
​0
​1
​0
​0
​​Total
​3,238
​24
​1,962
​182
​1,359
​​225

​​

​Total 2020 Permits
​​​​​6,990

Q1-Q4 2019 Permitted​​​

​Well Type

​Abandon
​Deepen
​New Drill
​Re-Abandon
​Rework
​Sidetrack
​Cyclic steam extraction & injection wells
470
​5
​1,214
​1
362
​124
​​Dry gas extraction wells
13
0
​16
​0
​53
​1
​Dry hole wells
0
0
​0
0
​0
​​0
​Gas extraction wells
1
0
1
0
0
0
​Gas disposal wells
0
0
0
0
2
0
​Gas storage wells
​24
0
2
2
59
0
​Injection wells
11
0
19
0
8
1
​Multi-purpose wells
16
0
14
1
33
39
Observation wells​
49
0
84
2
27
2
​Conventional oil & gas extraction wells
1,738
​25
865
139
870
168
​Pressure maintenance wells
0
0
0
0
1
0
​Steamflood injection wells 
384
8
310
2
231
4
​Unknown
​68
3
2
4
1
2
​Water disposal wells
19
1
6
0
50
4
​Water flood wells
0
0
0
0
0
0
​​Water source wells
4
0
0
0
0
0
​Total
2,797
42
2,533
151
1,697
​345
​​​Total 2019 Permits​
7,565

Permit Issuances: 

​​​​​​Ca​​lG​​EM​ Well Permits Issued for Oil and Gas Production: ​2019 & 2020​

​Permit Types
​Abandon
​Deepen
​New Drill
​Re-Abandon
​Rework
​​Sidetrack
​Total
​2019 Permits
​2,797
​​​42
​​​2,533
​​​151
​​​1,697
​​​345
​​​​​7,565
​2020 Permits
​​3,238
​24
​1,962
​182
​1,359
​225

​​​​6,990

​Change from 2019 to 2020
​16%
​-43%
​-23%
​21%
​-20%
​-35%
​​-8%

Cyclic steam extraction and injection w​ells​

Permit
Ty​pes
​Abandon
​Deepen
​New Drill
​Re-Abandon
​Rework
​Sidetrack
​Total
​2019​ Permits
​470
​5
​1,214
​1
​362
​124
​2,176
​2020 Permits 
​636
​1
​115
​5
​239
​45
​1,041
​Change from 2019 to 2020​
​35%
​-80%
​-90%
​400%
​-34%
​-64%
​​-52%

Conventional oil and gas extraction wells

​​​2019 ​
Pe​rmits

​1,738
​25
​865
​139
​870
​168
​3,805
​2020 Permits

​1,946
​19
​1,656
​164
​674
​138
​4,597
Change from 2019 to 2020
​12%
​-24%
​91%
​18%
​-23%
​-18%
​21%

​Steamflood injection wells

​20​​19 ​Permits
​​​384
​8
​310
​2
​231
​4
​939

​2020 Permits
​380
​0
​70
​1
​239
​2
​692
​Change from 2019 to 2020
​-1%
​-100%
​-77%
​-50%
​3%
​-50%
​-26%

2020 Well Completions (Spuds) All Well Types

Year
​​Quarter
​​Total wells (All Types) spudded in this quarter
​​​​2020
​1
​69
​​2020
​2
​47
​2020
​3
​19
​2020
​4
​3
​Total
​138

2019 Well Completions (Spuds) All Well Types

​Year​​​
​​​​Quarter
​Total Wells (All Types) spudded in this quarter
​​​​​2019
1
​335
​​2019
2
​353
​2019
3
​233
​2019
4
​111

TOTAL
​1,032

2019 vs. 2020 = -87%​