State Lands Commission and California Geological Energy Management Division announce oil well abandonment milestone

California Department of Conservation Geologic Energy Management Division logo
Sheri Pemberton, State Lands Commission
Jacob Roper, Department of Conservation

Sacramento, Calif.—The State Lands Commission, in collaboration with the Department of Conservation’s California Geological Energy Management Division (CalGEM), has plugged and abandoned all 50 wells on Rincon Island and all 24 state onshore production wells. The State Lands Commission also partnered with CalGEM to plug and abandon two additional onshore wells that were not part of state lease operations but had been deserted.

Rincon Island off the coast of Ventura County is one of a handful of remaining offshore oil structures in state waters. Decommissioning these offshore structures is a major part of California’s transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy future.

When the State Lands Commission took responsibility for decommissioning Rincon in 2017, after the operator declared bankruptcy, it quickly mobilized to protect the environment, secure funding, engage the community, and collaborate with its regulatory partner, CalGEM. Despite the well complexities, the Commission and its contractor Driltek Inc., plugged and abandoned the 74 wells ahead of schedule, under budget, and without incident or spillage.

“This is an incredible accomplishment and a testament to our team’s commitment, expertise, and work ethic,” said Lieutenant Governor and State Lands Commission Chair Eleni Kounalakis. “We look forward to bringing this same skill and commitment to the remaining decommissioning work that lies ahead as California sets its sights on our clean energy future.”

The decommissioning work is divided into three phases. The primary component of phase one, plugging and abandoning the 74 wells, is now complete. The remaining phase one work, consisting of site clearance activities to remove decrepit oil production infrastructure, is underway and anticipated to be complete by June of this year.

“I commend the hard work and strong partnership established on this project,” State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk said. “Driven by science and sound engineering practices, CalGEM will continue to provide expertise and support as we work with key partners like the State Lands Commission to protect the health and safety of our state’s residents and the environment.”

Phase two is to develop a feasibility study and complete an analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act, which will inform a decommissioning plan for Rincon Island, the onshore facility, and the causeway that connects the artificial island to the mainland.  This work, which will include extensive public outreach and engagement, will begin soon and is anticipated to be complete in 2022. The Commission will continue to perform necessary maintenance work and provide security onshore, at the causeway, and on Rincon Island during phase two and until a decommissioning plan is executed. Phase three, executing a decommissioning plan, will start when phase two is complete.

More information on the Rincon Island decommissioning status and next steps is available here. To sign-up for periodic updates on the Rincon Island decommissioning work, please visit this link.