Lately I have been attending a lot of County hearings about oil and gas drilling. I have listened to elected officials trying to wrap their heads around the many issues – jobs, energy, environmental protection, wildlife, and so on. I have heard elected officials say incredible and sometimes, frankly ridiculous things. I have listened as Industry reps and staff and state regulators put their message through the spin cycle and then all come out saying the same things.
I am trying to report on the issue in an objective way. Trying to get a response from Industry about various events, and about what is unfolding. But when the same things are repeated, and when some folks keep saying things that make no sense, and have no basis in fact, I feel compelled to provide correct information.
Recently, Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy said (and was quoted in the May 30 issue of the VC Reporter) that oil operators don’t spill any “water” on the ground. He was referring to “produced water.” Which is the water that comes up with the oil and gas. This water is considered hazardous. It has been sealed for thousands of years underground with oil, gas, methane, radioactive compounds, just to name a few. If the well has been fracked, well then it will also contain fracking chemicals - 29 are known carcinogens. And when the oil comes up, it comes up to. A lot of it. More water than oil in fact is extracted in oil drilling operations. I found it a bit ridiculous for an elected official to say, during a public hearing, that operators don’t spill this water on the ground.
I thought it was ridiculous because I have reports that state otherwise. The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) VC Spill list, (posted in the right column of this blog) lists 868 spills since 1994 in VC, many of which include produced water. But there was a big one I’d heard about, but couldn’t find any record of.
I got the year nailed down, I knew it happened in 2006 in Upper Ojai and I knew which field. In the DOGGR VC Spill list I located a spill on Topa Vista Road that concluded with the well being abandoned. It listed a spill of 9000 (no note on whether that is barrels or gallons) water. And that was about it.
Then this well record surfaced (well DOGGR has well records posted on its website) and it contains a detailed description of this spill that lasted for three months. Yep, a spill that lasted for three months. They flew in THE expert – Mike Shackelford- on problem wells from Kazakhstan with the company Boots and Coots ( now owned by Halliburton) – you know the guys who put out the burning Iraq oil fields. This is serious business. Click Here to see the DOGGR well record for Ojai 36
Here are two photographs of the water coming up and of the rigs and work to the plug the well.
No media coverage. Zip. Zilch. I have questions about what kind of pollution inspections were done by someone other than the oil company. Was it cleaned up completely? Or are there still traces in the soil?
Today the hilltop is clearly flattened, and this year residents have noticed what looks like a natural “seep” flowing down the hill. For me this raises questions of whether the industry has a record of seep locations, and if this seep could in fact be this Ojai 36 well trying to again wreak havoc.