Mirroring similar accelerated efforts with onshore wells, California regulators are seeking to remove and remediate more than 200 legacy offshore oil and gas wells that may be hazardous.
State Senate Bill 44 passed two years ago established a process administered by the State Lands Commission (SLC). The SLC now has begun assessing legacy wells that date to the early 1900s.
When most of the wells were abandoned there was no oversight. Based on SLC's assessment, "there are approximately 200 high-priority legacy wells,” labeled as Category 1 wells, “that could, depending on their condition, leak oil into the marine environment."
Many of the other wells offshore are considered Category 2, a medium threat, or 3, considered a low priority. Those wells have more information available regarding their integrity and abandonment.
SLC is working with the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to implement the remediation of improperly abandoned legacy wells and/or removal work. DOGGR, to be renamed next year as the California Geologic Energy Management Division, oversees onshore oil and gas operations.
SLC also is to "survey, study and monitor oil seepage" in state waters and tidelands under the legislation and "partner with experts to facilitate innovative solutions.”
SLC's report concluded that most of its two-year efforts have been accomplished. A re-inventory of coastal hazards is planned this spring. SLC has a four-year contract with InterAct PMTI, Inc. and a three-year deal with Cushman Contracting Corp. to remove coastal hazards, and it plans to work with California universities to complete seepage studies.