Mapping the long history of oil drilling in Los Angeles

Re-Post of original article on Curbed Los Angeles

Los Angeles has had always had a complicated relationship with oil. In 1892, what had been a small agricultural city popular with Midwestern tourists became a boomtown nearly overnight when oil was discovered in modern-day Echo Park.

From the beginning, the needs of the oil drillers collided with those of residents, visitors, and developers. The city we know today grew up alongside the oil industry and continues to be shaped by it—about 3,000 active wells remain in LA County, many of them in close proximity to residential neighborhoods, parks, and schools.

LA Curbed mapped a few of the places that show how the industry has embedded itself into the urban environment of Los Angeles.

Learn more about Terra-Petra’s Oil Field Services.

1. Echo Park Deep Pool

1419 Colton St
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 481-2640

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Here’s where it all began—yes, here. The current site of the Echo Park Deep Pool is where Edward Doheny and his partner Charles Canfield drilled the first oil well in Los Angeles in 1892, using a sharpened eucalyptus tree. According to lore, they found the site after Doheny spotted a slick black substance on the wheel of a passing cart. As casually as possible, he asked the driver to show him exactly where he had come from.

2. Discovery Well Park

2200 Temple Ave
Signal Hill, CA 90755
(562) 989-7330

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A plaque and adjoining park commemorate the first productive well drilled at Signal Hill. On June 23rd, 1921, a geyser of oil erupted from the Alamitos number one well, leading to an explosion of drilling in the Long Beach area. By 1923, Signal Hill was the state’s largest field, and California was producing a quarter of the world’s supply of oil. Per the plaque, the monument is a “tribute to the petroleum pioneers for their success here, a success which has, by aiding in the growth and expansion of the petroleum industry, contributed so much to the welfare of mankind.” We’ll take their word for it.

3. Pico Canyon Oil Field

Doheny may have set off the oil boom within the city of Los Angeles, but the first successful well in LA County was to the north, in the Santa Susana Mountains. A gusher at Charles Mentry’s Pico Well No. 4 on September 26, 1876, announced to the world that Southern California was rich in black gold. The nearby town of Newhall later became home to the state’s first refinery (pictured below).

4. Phillips 66 Oil Refinery

1660 W Anaheim St
Wilmington, CA 90744

The massive Wilmington Oil Field is the largest in California, having produced somewhere between 760 million and 1.2 trillion barrels of oil since it was first tapped in 1932. The Phillips 66 refinery in the southeast Los Angeles neighborhood paints one of its massive storage tanks orange  every October as a strange and festive Halloween tradition.

5. Andeavor Refinery

22600 S Wilmington Ave
Carson, CA 90745
(310) 816-8100

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Perhaps the most recognizable oil facility in the world, the Andeavor Refinery in Carson is adorned with an enormous American flag easily visible to drivers on the 405. Like Andeavor’s Wilmington refinery, this one dates back to the region’s oil boom of the 1920s and 1930s. Together, the two facilities now process a combined 380,000 barrels daily.

6. THUMS Islands

(562) 786-2385

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At the southeastern end of the Wilmington field is are the THUMS islands, constructed by the Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobil and Shell oil companies in 1965. As part of an agreement with the city of Long Beach, the oil companies invested considerable funds in disguising the drilling sites with boulders, palm trees, sculptures, and water falls—so much so that they are sometimes mistaken for luxury resorts.

7. Venice Beach

Venice Beach
Los Angeles, CA

Starting in the 1930s, Venice had a run as one of the leading oil producers in the state. During that time, derricks ran all along the canals and dotted the beach. Waterways became filled with oily sludge and the ocean was badly polluted. Production eventually dropped off in the 1970s and the last wells in the area were capped less than two decades later.

8. Inglewood Oil Field

College Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230

The enormous Inglewood Oil Field was first tapped in 1924 and has produced close to 400 million barrels of oil since then. Despite years of complaints from nearby residents, hundreds of wells continue to operate daily right alongside its neighbors in Baldwin Hills and Culver City.

9. False building

1351 S Genesee Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019

From the outside this edifice looks like a particularly soul crushing office building with no windows. Inside, however, it’s not a building at all. The structure is simply a shell disguising the site of an oil derrick slurping away at the Beverly Hills Oil Field.

10. Beverly Hills High School

241 S Moreno Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 229-3685

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One of the smaller major oil fields in the Los Angeles area, the Beverly Hills field is nonetheless productive, and the oil derrick on the campus of Beverly Hills High School was, until recently, churning out about 400 barrels of crude each day. The drilling site was ordered shut in 2016 and the complicated process of cleaning it up is scheduled to start this month.

11. Salt Lake Oil Field

6298 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 936-2864

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The Grove and Original Farmers Market today sit atop the Salt Lake Oil Field, discovered by dairy farmer Arthur Gilmore in the mid-1890s. Though the field was most productive in the early 20th Century, it was still being tapped in 1985, when drillers inadvertently caused methane gas to move below ground, rising up to the surface within the Ross store at Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. The resulting explosion injured 23 people.

12. Jefferson Drill Site

1375 W Jefferson Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90007

The subject of significant community opposition, this South LA drill site was forced last year to comply with city-imposed requirements that ensure its operators enclose the site and monitor vibrations and noxious fumes that neighbors say are caused by the drilling.

13. Del Amo Field

It might not look like it, but this quiet residential street in Torrance was the site of the first major strike in the Del Amo oil field. Throughout the 1920s, this was one of the most productive fields in the LA area with nearly 1,500 wells spread across more than 3,500 acres.

14. Huntington Beach

Offshore oil rigs are a familiar sight to Huntington Beach residents and visitors. On and off land, drillers have been tapping the city’s oil field since the 1920s. Recent research from the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that it may, in fact, have been oil drilling here that triggered the Long Beach Earthquake in 1933.

Read the original article on Curbed Los Angeles

Los Angeles was an oil town

Los Angeles Oil Drills Give Way to Skyline Views

(from Urbanize.LA)

One can also say that LA oil drills gave way to new skyline views as well as the birth of environmental engineering.

Long before becoming the epicenter for the film industry, Los Angeles was an oil town. Though few remnants remain today, a large oil field once cut a broad swath through the heart of Los Angeles, running from just south of present-day Dodger Stadium to Vermont Avenue in what is now Koreatown.  It began large-scale operations in the early 1890s, before peaking at the turn of the 20th century and falling into decline as development encroached into its territory over ensuing decades.

The photo (above) from the USC Digital Archive was taken near the intersection of Edgeware Road and Court Street in the first decade of the 1900s.  It depicts oil production in the Westlake area near the era’s peak.  Note the small home at 1274 Court Street at the terminus of Edgeware.  The after image below, taken in 2018 by Laurie Avocado, shows this same view in a modern context.  Gone are the abundance of oil drills, replaced by the skyscrapers of Downtown Los Angeles.  The lone remnant of the century-old image is that same house at 1274 Court Street.

UST abandonment status update – Los Angeles, California

The in-place UST abandonment went well this past week with a current Terra-Petra project in the Downtown Los Angeles area. LAFD Inspector Sanchez was satisfied with the procedure. Next step in the process will be to follow through with the soil borings, sampling and testing, and the investigative results shall be compiled in the UST Closure Report to LAFD.

Approximately 558,000 underground storage tanks (USTs) nationwide store petroleum or hazardous substances. The greatest potential threat from a leaking UST is contamination of groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans. EPA, states, and tribes work in partnership with industry to protect the environment and human health from potential releases.

Project directed by Dave Lucero for Terra-Petra Environmental Engineering. Here are some preliminary photos.

 

Successful Oil Well Re-Abandonment Work in Santa Fe Springs

Terra-Petra Oil Well Abandonment The end of August 2016 marked the commencement of Terra-Petra’s re-abandonment of a single oil and gas well located on a client’s property in Santa Fe Springs, California.

Terra-Petra managed all of the oil well permitting matters associated with an unspecified redevelopment of the site since March of this year — consulting with the property owner and negotiating with the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) on all oil well related compliance matters in an attempt to bring the site up to current standards so that it can be redeveloped.

Terra-Petra provided a full turn-key approach to address the oil well compliance matters upon submitting the Construction Site Plan Review, wrote the well reabandonment program, filed for and received the Permit to Conduct Well Operations and currently in the process of re-abandoning the well. The well re-abandonment work typically consists of drilling out all existing cement plugs within the well all the way to depth.

Oil well re-abandonment

Once the well is cleaned out new “isolation plugs” consisting of cement are installed at varying depths to seal off different oil and gas producing zones including the upper hydrocarbon zone as well as the base of fresh water.

The cementing operations are completed with a final cement plug from 25’-35’ deep to the surface.  A steel plate is tack welded to the exterior steel casing and the last 5 digits of the API number are welded to it.

The well then must be surveyed prior to burying with latitude and longitude in a specific DOGGR approved format. Terra-Petra is anticipating a completion date of September 23, 2016. Please contact Terra-Petra for any of your oil well related needs. 

Terra-Petra Oil Well Abandonment

oil well re-abandonment

Update on Terra-Petra’s Pacific City Oil Well Abandonment Project

Joe Morelli, Fire Protection Analyst of the HBDF, and Terra-Petra's Larry Barnes consulting near an abandoned oil well trenchNearly two years after commencing environmental work on the Pacific City project in Huntington Beach, California, the site is prepared for further construction. After intensive environmental work to verify the integrity of the on-site oil and water well abandonments, all necessary permits are in place to start constructing the foundation of the approximately 190,000 sq. ft. property. Terra-Petra is proud to have taken part in such a notable development project while contributing to tremendous cost savings for the client.

In order to bring incredible value to the project, Terra-Petra came to a practical remediation plan contradictory to one which may have been reached by blindly conforming to re-abandonment codes and procedures. After a careful review of all information obtained from field explorations and well documents from the DOGGR, Larry Barnes – Terra-Petra’s Senior Petroleum Geologist – determined that a minimally intrusive remediation approach would be sufficient for the site. This approach involved shortening all wells to a depth between 6 and 10 feet below grade, recapping each well head with a circular metal plate, and installing a methane mitigation vent cone at each well head. Rather than disturbing the abandoned wells and replacing all cement plugs with costly drilling expenses, this much more non-intrusive approach was deemed more than adequate for preventing any future leaks and site contamination.

In convincing the governing agencies that is safer to leave the wells relatively undisturbed and proceeding with the aforementioned action plan, Terra-Petra was able to successfully save the client millions of dollars while simultaneously reducing their risks on this sizeable development project. With the combined expertise of the construction team Terra-Petra was able to meet the expedited construction schedule. The client is now in the process of grading the site in preparation for foundation construction. Terra-Petra will be on hand to proceed with the necessary methane gas mitigation measures on the foundation of the site for the safety of future site residents.

[PHOTO: Joe Morelli, Fire Protection Analyst of the HBDF, and  Terra-Petra's Larry Barnes consulting near an abandoned oil well trench.]

Terra-Petra helps deveolper save millions with oil well remediation plan

Excavation equipment unearthing an identified oil wellTerra-Petra’s construction division was recently contacted to prepare an Oil Well History Report of 20 oil wells located on an 18 acre site in Huntington Beach, California. In accordance with the requirements of the Huntington Beach Fire Department, Terra-Petra’s team performed a “sniff test” on the oil well heads, then followed up with appropriate necessary re-abandonment activities in order to stop any leakage and contamination. 

Photo on right: Excavation equipment unearthing an identified oil well.

See more photo highlights below.

The scope of work began with surveying and staking the location of all 20 oil wells and providing excavation equipment and labor to uncover 15 of the abandoned wells while making them safe for entry. Dave Lucero, Terra-Petra’s Senior Project Scientist, was responsible for managing all excavation/backfilling operations and overseeing the entirety of field activities.

Dave also monitored all soil stockpiles for V.O.C. emissions and dust control per the requirements of the South Coast Air Quality Management District's Rule 1166.1. With Dave's extensive field experience and expert project oversight all oil wells were located, excavated, and exposed for sniff testing.

Larry Barnes, Terra-Petra’s Senior Geologist, took charge of conducting the sniff testing of each of the 15 excavated oil wells, 5 vented oil wells, and monitoring for fugitive gas emissions at each well head per the requirements of Huntington Beach Fire Department City Spec. 422 and the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR).

As a California Licensed Petroleum Geologist, Larry’s duties included documenting the wells’ history, the casing and liners of the wells, the type of cement used to complete the well abandonments, preparing well diagrams, and recording information on all oil/gas zones. With this comprehensive information Larry was able to provide the developer with an ongoing Oil Well History Report for the Huntington Beach site. His expert knowledge in the geological field and long-standing relationship with the DOGGR facilitate the process of determining the level of safety for structures to be built over or near the wells and the corresponding safety recommendations.

After a careful review of all information obtained from field explorations and well documents obtained from the DOGGR, Terra-Petra came to a practical remediation plan contradictory to one which may have been reached simply by conforming to re-abandonment codes and procedures. Rather than disturbing the abandoned wells and replacing all cement plugs with costly drilling expenses, it was determined that a much more non-intrusive approach would be more than adequate for preventing any future leaks and site contamination. This approach involved shortening all wells to a depth between 6 and 10 feet below grade, recapping each well head with a circular metal plate, and installing a methane mitigation vent cone at each well head. In convincing the governing agencies that is safer to leave the wells relatively undisturbed and proceeding with the aforementioned action plan, Terra-Petra has successfully saved the client millions of dollars on this notable development project.

With the combined expertise of the construction team Terra-Petra was able to meet the expedited construction schedule. The client is now prepared to proceed with the necessary gas mitigation measures for the safety of future site residents.

Photo highlights

An excavated trench revealing an abandoned oil well cap, 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An excavated trench revealing an abandoned oil well cap.

 

 

 Terra-Petra excavation equipment compiling a soil stockpile near an abandoned oil well trench.

 

Terra-Petra excavation equipment compiling a soil stockpile near anabandoned oil well trench.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Joe Morelli, Fire Protection Analyst of the HBDF, and Terra-Petra's Larry Barnes consulting near an abandoned oil well trench.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

A safe-to enter trench revealing the location of an oil well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An excavated cement well plug.