Goleta – Since Venoco LLC quitclaimed State Lease PRC 421, which includes the PRC 421 wells, the Commission, through its agents, has undertaken the plug and abandonment operations (in Venoco’s absence) to clean up these wells that were drilled in the late 1930s. The plug and abandonment of these wells remain Venoco’s obligation, but Venoco’s failure to undertake their responsibilities required the State Lands Commission to intervene and abate the outstanding risks.
With that in mind, on May 28, a release of 2-3 barrels of oil (80-100 gallons) occurred during the Commission’s abandonment operations near Haskell Beach. Initial reports indicate that the bulk of the oil was contained within the concrete structure around the PRC 421 well, but as much as 1 barrel (42 gallons) may have been released into the marine environment. The Commission is coordinating closely with OSPR, the Coast Guard, the City of Goleta, and the County of Santa Barbara. The Commission’s incident control plan is actively in place and is being followed.
Local and state agency staff have been on site since the release with response crews and have been cleaning the oiled beach areas. The oil on the surface in the caisson, around the rig, was cleaned up, save for an inaccessible area under some pipe. The oil, while it may originally have been part of the well’s past production, was not directly from the geologic formation that produced the oil when the well was active. That zone has been sealed with cement for many weeks. The exact cause and effect are under investigation. The Commission will use the new information to determine the best way to finish cementing the surface sections of the well to ensure that this type of breach will not occur from this well in the future. More information will be provided as it becomes available.