Oil Well Leak Test – Los Angeles

Oil Well Leak Test Services - Los Angeles, CA

Terra-Petra is undertaking, on behalf of a Los Angeles developer, the task to locate, uncover and leak test a single oil well in Los Angeles, CA.  The proposed site will consist of a two-story, raised foundation, single family dwelling. The California Department of Conservation, Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) requested this work to be performed as necessary oil well due diligence.

The tasks performed may encompass a geophysical survey, a well head excavation, a well head survey, and a well head leak test and summary report. All work will be completed in compliance with the California Public Resources Code (PRC) Article 4: Regulation of Operations: Code Sections 3200-3258.

Terra-Petra Oil Field Services

Terra-Petra’s oil field services offer our clients a one-stop shop for all their oil field needs.  Our team will manage your project from start to finish, encompassing everything from initial consultation to the final report and submission of NFA (No Further Action) letter.

With the seemingly endless moving parts involved in successful oil field construction site plan reviewoil well abandonment / re-abandonmentvent cone installationconsulting and more, it’s important to have an expert by your side every step of the way to manage the process and make sure your budget and schedule stay on track.  With Terra-Petra’s hands-on expertise in ALL aspects of oil field management and consulting we stand out amongst other firms in the industry.

Grand jury says Santa Barbara County fails to properly monitor idle oil wells; supervisors disagree

By Mike Hodgson

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve a response to a grand jury investigation into 1,374 idle oil wells in the county that disagrees with the findings and rejects the resulting recommendations when it meets Tuesday in Santa Maria.

The response is part of the board’s administrative agenda, which consists of items generally approved in a single vote unless a supervisor pulls one for discussion or for a separate vote or a member of the public asks to comment on one.

Grand jurors made four findings and four recommendations to the board in their report released Dec. 20.

In their proposed response, supervisors wholly disagree with all four findings and say none of the four recommendations will be implemented.

In general, the grand jury found the health and environmental risks from idle wells are not being adequately addressed; the county is too understaffed to adequately monitor idle wells; code provisions requiring drilling equipment and derricks to be removed are not fully enforced; and the county may face financial liabilities from inadequate monitoring.

The “idle wells” referred to in the report are 926 “long-term idle wells,” those inactive for at least eight years, and 448 “inactive wells,” those out of production more than two but less than eight years, identified by the California Geologic Energy Management Division in 2019.

At that time, the county also had 4,215 “abandoned wells,” which had been out of production for two years or more but whose owners or operators applied for permits and followed procedures for taking them out of service.

Those procedures included plugging the wells with cement to prevent hydrocarbons from leaking into groundwater or soil or onto the surface.

Only one well in the county in 2019 was classified an “orphaned well,” where the owner had declared bankruptcy, become insolvent or simply deserted it without taking steps to properly seal it.

The rest of the 1,028 wells in the county at that time were considered “active wells.”

Grand jury’s findings

The grand jury noted oil seeping from both active and idle wells can contaminate the soil and groundwater, and leaking methane gas can cause air pollution.

But the report said because idle wells are usually unattended, the seepage and leaks can become extensive before they are discovered, thus posing a greater risk to the public and environment.

“An example of the effects of seepage can be seen in the Santa Maria Valley, where there were thousands of active oil wells in the past,” the report says. “Some homes in Santa Maria had to be demolished because the area’s soil had been contaminated by seepage from old wells that had not been properly abandoned and plugged.

“There appears to have been no county remedial action on a number of the old wells around Orcutt, and no action by the owner to abandon them,” the report continues. “Abandonment under the required legal procedures would have led to capping. In the absence of capping, the health and safety of the area are not secure.”

The grand jury recommended supervisors direct the Planning and Development Department to identify health and environmental risks and determine actual and potential fiscal labilities from idle wells in annual reports to the board.

It also recommended supervisors direct Planning and Development to maintain enough trained personnel to staff the Petroleum Unit of its Energy, Minerals and Compliance Division and to enforce County Code requirements for removing equipment and derricks from idle wells.

Supervisors’ response

The board’s proposed response says annual Planning and Development, County Fire Department and County Air Pollution Control District inspections of active and idle wells provide sufficient regulatory oversight to minimize risks to public health and the environment.

However, the response says in order to provide annual well inspection data to the public, within one year Planning and Development will launch a public-facing web portal that lists inspection dates and results for each well that’s inspected.

In the proposed response, the board also says it won’t require a report on fiscal liabilities because those are the responsibility of the state and the well operator.

Biden administration to give states $1.15 billion to plug orphaned wells, which leak planet-warming methane

Image Above:  Curtis Shuck, founder of Well Done Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Bozeman, Mont., that caps abandoned oil and gas wells, observes measurements of leaking methane gas from a capped oil well in June near Shelby, Mont. (Adrián Sánchez-Gonzalez for The Washington Post)

Re-post of original article from The Washington Post


By Tik Root

The White House on Monday announced new steps to help curb emissions of methane, saying it will send $1.15 billion to states to clean up thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells that leak the powerful planet-warming gas.

The Biden administration also outlined plans to enforce requirements for pipeline operators to minimize methane leaks, undertake research to reduce methane emissions from beef and dairy systems, and form an interagency working group to measure and report greenhouse gases around the nation.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement that the new funding “is enabling us to confront the legacy pollution and long-standing environmental injustices” that have long plagued vulnerable communities. “This is good for our climate, for the health of our communities, and for American workers,” Haaland said.

Tens of thousands of abandoned wells dot the country in places where the oil and gas companies or individual owners went out of business, or are otherwise no longer responsible for their cleanup.

The Interior Department reported earlier this month that there are 130,000 documented abandoned wells across the country. And an analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund and McGill University found that about 9 million people in the United States live within a mile of an orphaned well. As recently as 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the number of wells could actually be as high as 2 million to 3 million.

“Some might be relatively harmless, and some might be quite dangerous,” said Mary Kang, a researcher at McGill University in Canada who has long studied the problem. The wells can emit a range of gases, she said, including methane, which is the primary component of natural gas. In its first 20 years in the atmosphere, methane has more than 80 times the warming potential than that of carbon dioxide.

“It’s a pretty big problem that’s flown under the radar for a long time,” said Adam Peltz, a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund who also worked on the analysis. He called the White House’s move “a down payment on this problem.”

The $1.15 billion announced Monday is the first tranche of allotments from the $4.7 billion that Congress approved for orphaned well cleanup as part of the fall’s bipartisan infrastructure package. That package also included more than $11 billion in funding for abandoned mine reclamation and $1 billion for modernizing natural gas pipelines, among other measures.

The funds will go to the 26 states that submitted notices of intent to the Interior Department late last year. The allocations range from about $25 million for Alabama, up to $107 million for Texas. More will be spent in the coming months and years as part of grants to states.


Read the complete article on The Washington Post

Los Angeles Moves To End Oil Drilling In The City

Re-post from latimes.com

(Image by Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday took steps intended to phase out oil drilling and gas extraction in the city, moving to address the legacy of environmental and health problems caused by an industry that helped create modern Southern California.

The council voted unanimously to support a ban on new oil wells and ordered a study intended to help city officials determine how to phase out existing wells in the next two decades.

Environmental justice activists heralded the vote as long-fought win for the low-income communities of color near the wells and a turning point in city regulations that allow for the extraction of oil and gas in residential neighborhoods.

“No community should be a sacrifice zone,” said Martha Dina Arguello, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-L.A. and co-chair of a coalition of community groups fighting to shut down wells.

Oil wells are known to emit likely carcinogens including benzene and formaldehyde, and living near wells is linked to health problems including respiratory issues and preterm births, studies have found.

Yet storage tanks and oil rigs are hidden behind walls and nestled near homes, schools and youth clubs. Along with health risks, the active sites can bring around-the-clock noise for residents.

Petroleum was once one of Southern California’s biggest industries, with derricks and wells dotting coastal areas from Huntington Beach to Santa Barbara, extending to inland communities including Brea and Echo Park. The industry helped fuel L.A.’s growth in the early 20th century and later provided jobs for veterans after World War II, and also created some of L.A.’s great fortunes and scandals in the prewar years.

The region’s output is not what it once was, but there are still more than 1,000 active or idle wells in L.A., city officials say.

“Oil drilling in Los Angeles might have made sense in the early part of the 20th century, but it sure doesn’t make a lot of sense now that we’ve become a megalopolis at the beginning of the 21st century,” Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents San Fernando Valley neighborhoods, said at Wednesday’s council meeting.

The motion approved Wednesday directs city attorneys to draft an ordinance that prohibits new oil and gas extraction. The city will also conduct an amortization study to understand whether oil companies have recouped the value of their investments at each oil site.

If companies have recouped those costs, L.A. officials say it will make it easier for the city to shut down the sites.

Rock Zierman, chief executive of the California Independent Petroleum Assn., said in a statement that “shutting down domestic energy production not only puts Californians out of work and reduces taxes that pay for vital services, but it makes us more dependent on imported foreign oil from Saudi Arabia and Iraq that is tankered into L.A.’s crowded port.”

Crude that is produced in California complies with state environmental laws, while imports are exempt, Zierman added.

“Further, taking someone’s property without compensation … violates the U.S. Constitution’s 5th Amendment against illegal search and seizure,” Zierman said.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors last year took similar steps to phase out oil production in unincorporated areas. The state is moving toward banning new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools and healthcare facilities, and requiring emissions monitoring of existing wells within those buffer zones.

More than half of the city of L.A.’s active oil wells are in Wilmington, according to Communities for a Better Environment, an environmental health and justice group. The group became involved in the neighborhood in 2007 after residents complained about a massive oil drilling operation run by Warren E&P Inc.

The operation is near homes and a youth baseball field, said Bahram Fazeli, director of research and policy at Communities for a Better Environment.

“It was terrible — people said it was a living hell,” Fazeli said, describing residents’ complaints of asthma attacks and nosebleeds. “It’s still a big hazard to the community.”

A drilling site run by Allenco Energy in University Park brought reports of foul odors, headaches and persistent nosebleeds. The site was ordered in 2020 to shut down permanently after years of legal and political wrangling.

The city has faced persistent criticism from activists for its lack of oversight of the petroleum industry. A 2020 investigation by The Times and the Center for Public Integrity found that the city of Los Angeles has been slow and inconsistent in forcing the petroleum industry to take responsibility for wells that sit idle and unplugged.

Mysterious Methane Plumes Spotted Above Texas Oil and Gas Fields

Mysterious Methane Plumes Spotted Above Texas Oil and Gas Fields

By Josh Saul

(Bloomberg) — A satellite spotted two plumes of planet-warming methane rising from a patch of East Texas that’s home to multiple oil and gas operations.

State regulators said they couldn’t identify the source of the methane, which is the primary component of natural gas and traps 80 times as much heat than carbon dioxide in its first two decades in the atmosphere. Stemming methane leaks and stopping unnecessary releases is one of the most powerful steps that can be taken to slow global warming.

The two plumes were detected by geoanalytics company Kayrros SAS using a Nov. 29 satellite observation from the European Space Agency. Kayrros estimated that the plumes originated from different sources east of Dallas, about 15 miles apart, in an area dotted with fossil fuel infrastructure.

The plumes had estimated release rates of 21 tons per hour and 24 tons per hour. It’s not possible to determine the duration of leaks because satellites only capture one moment in time. If they lasted an hour, the two clouds combined would equal the average annual emissions from about 800 cars running in the U.S.

Some methane plumes found by satellites can be tracked to specific sources, especially if a company reveals that it released gas at that location at that time. But without anyone stepping forward, the source of such plumes — where multiple companies are operating in a small area — can remain a mystery. On-the-ground monitoring is also sometimes used to link releases to specific producers.

Companies operating pipelines nearby include Boardwalk Pipelines LP, Enbridge Inc. and Atmos Energy Corp. Boardwalk said it didn’t have any leaks or releases that could have caused the clouds. An Enbridge representative said the company isn’t aware of any such release. Atmos didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Texas regulators also weren’t able to identify the source of the methane plumes. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality wasn’t aware of the plumes, a representative said. A spokesperson for the Railroad Commission of Texas, the primary state regulator of the oil and natural gas industry, referred questions to the TCEQ.

Terra-Petra’s oil field services offer our clients a one-stop shop for all their oil field needs.  Our team will manage your project from start to finish, encompassing everything from initial consultation to the final report and submission of NFA (No Further Action) letter.

With the seemingly endless moving parts involved in successful oil field construction site plan reviewoil well abandonment / re-abandonmentvent cone installationconsulting and more, it’s important to have an expert by your side every step of the way to manage the process and make sure your budget and schedule stay on track.  With Terra-Petra’s hands-on expertise in ALL aspects of oil field management and consulting we stand out amongst other firms in the industry.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR OIL FIELD SERVICES

LA to Seek Federal Infrastructure Bill Funds to Remediate Orphaned Oil Wells

LA to Seek Federal Infrastructure Bill Funds to Remediate Orphaned Oil Wells

There are a total of 5,000 oil wells statewide eligible for a portion of the $4.7 billion in remediation funding through the infrastructure bill, according to Uduak-Joe Ntuk, California’s Oil and Gas Supervisor.

Los Angeles officials joined U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland today to discuss opportunities through the new infrastructure bill to fund the remediation of Los Angeles’ idle oil wells.

There are a total of 5,000 oil wells identified statewide eligible for a portion of the $4.7 billion in remediation funding through the infrastructure bill, according to Uduak-Joe Ntuk, California’s Oil and Gas Supervisor. His agency, the California Geologic Energy Management Division, is working to submit an application for the funding. The state will be competing with about 30 other states for portions of the funds, he said.

Haaland noted that Los Angeles County has “one of the highest concentrations of oil and gas wells of any city in the entire country, with some recent estimates suggesting that 500,000 people in L.A. live within half a mile of a well.”

“I’ve spent the day seeing firsthand how legacy pollution impacts people in the neighborhoods they live in. Kids who are relegated to having baseball practice next to oil pump jacks and gas wells, children who have grown up with bloody noses and the loss of the adults in their lives to cancer,” Haaland said.

“These wells can have serious impacts on the health and well-being of the community and the planet, from contaminating groundwater to seeping toxic chemicals and methane gases. That’s not acceptable,” she added.

Los Angeles County has about 1,400 wells identified for potential remediation funding. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who chairs the City Council’s Energy, Climate change, Environmental Justice and River Committee, said the city will submit a “very detailed plan” to the state on remediating its wells.

Orphaned wells can leak hydrocarbons and methane, and remediation funding would allow the state to cut the wellheads off, fill the wells with cement and remove tanks, vessels and pipelines. After that, the soil would be cleaned and tested. The remediation process can cost as little as $15,000 for individual wells in rural areas and as much as $500,000 for wells in urban areas like Los Angeles, which are typically older, Ntuk said.

“It’s a unique opportunity and arguably one of the largest investments in the environment in a generation,” Ntuk said. “We’ll be able to reduce methane emissions from these well, we’ll be able to protect groundwater, we’re also going to be able to create local jobs that pay well.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Haaland, Ntuk, O’Farrell and Councilman Gil Cedillo at Vista Hermosa Park, a roughly 10-acre park that reopened in 2008 after several idle wells within the park were remediated.

Garcetti said the city would apply for the federal remediation funding frequently to address the rest of its idle wells.

“I think we’re so used to being down on ourselves that we forget to celebrate when something historic, with Republican and Democratic support, passes. It’s not just important for D.C., it’s important for Echo Park, it’s important for Temple-Beaudry or Vista Hermosa,” Garcetti said.

Terra-Petra Abandoned Oil Well Services

Starting in the 3rd quarter of 2021 Terra-Petra saw a significant uptick in oil well abandonment projects that we are being asked to bid on. There are multiple steps involved with abandoning an oil well (orphaned or not). Initially we engage the California Department of ConservationGeologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) to start the Construction Site Well Review (CSWR) application process.

The CSWR is used to assist local permitting agencies in identifying and reviewing the status of wells that are located near or beneath structures. Simultaneously Terra-Petra’s Petroleum Engineering team starts the well abandonment permit process by reviewing the historic well files and preparing the permit package for submittal to CalGEM for review and approval. This process can take anywhere from 3 to 5 months. Once we have permits in hand, we can move into the physical abandonment process. Terra-Petra may spend between 2-5 weeks abandoning a single oil well with one of many abandonment rigs.

Later this year (2nd quarter 2022) we are looking to abandon wells in Redondo Beach and multiple sites in Torrance (pending permit issuance). We are currently consulting on oil well related matters for more than two dozen developments having an oil well on the property.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR OIL WELL ABANDONMENT SERVICES

U.S. Says More Than Half Of States Will Seek Oil Well Cleanup Funds

The Biden administration on Wednesday said more than half of U.S. states intend to apply for a portion of the $4.7 billion carved out in the new infrastructure law for cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells.

Well-plugging efforts are part of President Joe Biden’s goal to reduce climate-warming methane emissions, create jobs and address pollution in communities impacted by infrastructure left behind in the more than century of U.S. oil and gas drilling.

The number of abandoned wells in the United States has grown over the last decade, and many experts believe the number will keep growing as fossil fuels are replaced with cleaner forms of energy.

A memo issued by the Department of Interior said 26 states had indicated interest in applying for the grants. They include nearly every state with documented orphaned wells, which are defined as wells with an owner that is either unknown or insolvent.

The states include top U.S. crude oil producers Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado. Pennsylvania, which is estimated to have hundreds of thousands of very old abandoned wells, also plans to apply for the funding, Interior said.

Interior’s analysis found there are more than 130,000 documented orphaned wells in the United States — far more than the 56,600 tallied in a report by the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission in 2019. Many more wells exist that were drilled before regulators began requiring documentation in the mid-1900s.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are more than 3 million total abandoned oil and gas wells. About 2 million of those are estimated to be very old and never properly plugged. The agency believes such wells are responsible for most of the methane emitted from abandoned wells.

In the memo, Interior said it would publish the amount of grant funding each state may apply for in the coming weeks. States are also eligible to apply for initial $25 million grants to address high-priority wells and jumpstart their plugging programs.

Oil Well Due Diligence – Uncover, Leak Test, Well Head Survey

Terra-Petra is undertaking, on behalf of a Southern California engineering firm, the task to locate uncover and leak test a single oil well in Stanislaus County CA.

The California Department of Conservation, Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) requested this work to be performed as necessary oil well due diligence.

The tasks performed will encompass a geophysical survey and report, a well head excavation, a well head sniff test, a well head survey, an oil well summary report and overall project management.

Terra-Petra’s oil field services offer our clients a one-stop shop for all their oil field needs.  Our team will manage your project from start to finish, encompassing everything from initial consultation to the final report and submission of NFA (No Further Action) letter.

With the seemingly endless moving parts involved in successful oil field construction site plan reviewoil well abandonment / re-abandonmentvent cone installationconsulting and more, it’s important to have an expert by your side every step of the way to manage the process and make sure your budget and schedule stay on track.  With Terra-Petra’s hands-on expertise in ALL aspects of oil field management and consulting we stand out amongst other firms in the industry.

Abandoned Oil Well Leak Test – Redondo Beach, CA

ABANDONED OIL WELL CONSULTATION, INSPECTION AND TESTING

Terra-Petra was recently hired to by the developer of a Redondo Beach property to consult on all California Department of Conservation, Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) requirements associated with the potential discovery of an old abandoned oil well on their property.

Historical records and photos identified the oil well within the property boundaries, however, previous efforts to locate the well by the developer proved fruitless.

Once engaged by the client Terra-Petra employed our standard process for well locations which we call our “oil well due diligence”.

STEP 1 - Geophysical Survey

Terra-petra survey crew setting up equipment for site survey
Hand-held magnetic locator used to locate well casing for excavation

The first step in the process is to conduct a geophysical survey of the site. Oil Wells can be identified by the magnetic anomaly that shows up when conducting this work given that their casings are usually constructed of steel. Steel cased oil Wells have a specific “signature” that is very distinct from other metallic objects such as buried pipe or equipment. It becomes very apparent in the mapping system when an oil well is present.

STEP 2 - Oil Well Excavation

Soil excavation process after locating underground well casing.
Exposed top of well casing in excavation pit

The second stage of the process is to physically locate the well by excavating and uncovering it. We inspect the integrity of the casing and the surface plug (if present). Once this is done, we notify the local CalGEM representative that we have located a well and that we will be conducting the leak testing.

STEP 3 - Oil Well Leak Test

Excavated top of well casing cleaned and prepped for leak test.
Top of well casing after FID leak test and bubble test.

We then conduct a leak test at the well casing to identify if any fugitive gasses are emanating from the casing. The precise location of the oil well is then surveyed in by our survey crew and plotted on a site plan per CalGEM’s standards.

STEP 4 - Final Inspection & Client Summary Report

Soil monitoring procedure of excavated / stockpiled soil.
Backfilling of excavation pit, restoring surface grade elevation.

All information from our activities are compiled into a summary report and provided to the client for distribution to the appropriate agencies.

Deserted Oil Wells Haunt Los Angeles With Toxic Fumes And Enormous Cleanup Costs

Re-post from The Los Angeles Times

(Image by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Thick oil was once so abundant beneath Southern California that it bubbled to the surface, most famously at the La Brea Tar Pits.

But after more than a century of aggressive drilling by fossil fuel companies, most of Los Angeles’ profitable oil is gone. What remains is a costly legacy: nearly 1,000 wells across the city, in rich and poor neighborhoods, deserted by their owners and left to the state to clean, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis of state records by the Los Angeles Times and the Center for Public Integrity.

Few U.S. cities are punctured with such a concentration of old drilling sites, with tens of thousands of residents living nearby, from Ladera Heights to Echo Park. If not plugged and cleaned up, many of these orphaned wells will continue to expose people to toxic gases, complicate redevelopment and pose rare but serious threats of explosions. If the state were to tackle the cleanup, it would cost tens of millions of dollars.

Yet despite regulatory powers that in some ways are stronger than the state’s, Los Angeles has been slow and inconsistent in forcing the industry to take responsibility for its leaky legacy, according to the Times/Public Integrity investigation.

Part of the problem is staffing.

Until recently, the city Fire Department was operating with one full-time well inspector, resulting in sporadic enforcement.

The department issued notices of violations for extended inactivity to two companies in 2009, then three in 2016, according to the results of a public records request. Then, in 2018, the department inspected wells all across the city, handing out notices to more companies covering dozens of wells.

Battalion Chief James Hayden, whose responsibilities include the Los Angeles Fire Department’s oil and gas program, acknowledged that the city hadn’t provided adequate oversight of the industry. But with a second full-time inspector added this year and other employees trained to conduct additional inspections, he said, the department will work to ensure that operators “adequately manage their idle wells.”

Even as it adds personnel, Los Angeles has been hesitant to use its full regulatory authority, which allows the city to mandate that an oil or gas well either be restarted or shuttered after it sits unused for a year.

Tidelands Oil Production Co. is one firm that has skirted such cleanups.

A subsidiary of drilling company California Resources Corp., Tidelands operates wells in Wilmington, some of which have been idle since the 1990s. Although the city issued violation notices in 2018, Tidelands neither restarted production nor plugged and cleaned the wells.

Asked why, a CRC spokeswoman said by email that the company provided officials with information about the status of its wells “and we understand that the City is evaluating that information.” Hayden said Los Angeles lacks an appeals process for companies cited for violations and has chosen to defer to less-stringent state regulations.

Many neighbors of the city’s old drilling sites are frustrated and angered by what they see as official indifference toward orphaned wells.

“What’s going to happen to them?” asked Danny Luna, who lives in Echo Park, where hundreds of wells sit orphaned, many for more than a century. “Nobody’s taking responsibility for them. … Are we going to be left with leaky faucets underground?”

In addition, Los Angeles has failed to consistently employ a full-time petroleum administrator as city code requires. For decades, the position was unoccupied or filled by part-time employees. In 2016, Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Uduak-Joe Ntuk, who helped initiate the spurt of oil and gas inspections.

Ntuk departed in late 2019 to run the state agency that regulates oil production, the California Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM. The city has yet to hire a new petroleum regulator, relying on an interim administrator.

“It’s really about incompetence, playing games with politics,” said Michael Salman, a UCLA professor who watchdogs oil and gas issues. “It’s about shortsightedness.”


An explosive, costly legacy

Statewide, 2,425 oil and gas wells are deserted and unplugged, a Times/Public Integrity analysis found. More than half of these sites sit in Los Angeles County, mostly between Dodger Stadium and Koreatown. They haven’t produced in at least eight years — many for more than a century.

Until wells are properly cleaned and plugged, they pose a threat to communities and the environment. Idled and deserted wells can waft fumes into homes, emit climate-warming methane, leak salty water into aquifers and drip oil.

Many of these wells were deserted decades ago, during the early chapters of Southern California’s oil history.

Historically, “if a well dried or it didn’t produce anything, they’d throw a few logs down it and walk away,” said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat who has sponsored legislation addressing oil and gas cleanup. “And to this day we’ve been experiencing the kind of seepage that’s occurred because they haven’t been properly capped.”

Old wells also pose a risk of blowouts — and in extreme cases, explosions.

In January 2019, a 1930s-vintage oil well erupted in Marina del Rey, where a hotel was under construction. No one was injured, but residents and pedestrians captured video of oil, gas, drilling mud and other debris blasted into the sky.

In 1985, something ignited methane rising from a heavily drilled area near the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. The explosion blew up part of a Ross Dress for Less store, injuring 23 people. Researchers never fully settled the debate about whether the explosion was caused by naturally migrating gas or old wells. Still, the blast reflects the dangers of a city underlain by about 5,200 historical oil and gas wells and miles of associated pipelines.

Los Angeles sits atop “one of the most petroleum-dense basins on the planet,” said Seth Shonkoff, executive director of the research group PSE Healthy Energy, adding that old wells can act as conduits for gas. “Migration of methane and other hydrocarbons creates explosion hazards, which oftentimes need to be mitigated in the basements of houses and buildings.”