New oil and natural gas drilling hit historic lows in California last year while a renewed emphasis on abandoned wells turned up a record high number of permanently sealed wells, the state Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) reported Wednesday.

California oil and gas production

The severe downturn in permitting and new drilling can be seen as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, “but global commodity prices, our state’s economy and local judicial decisions in Kern County have all contributed to the decline,” said CalGEM spokesperson Don Drysdale.

Production data for the last two years showed in-state production met only about 32% of demand, according to the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA).

“Despite a dip in demand in 2020, imports still made up approximately 68% of total oil...