California on Monday issued its first permits for well stimulation following a third-party review mandated as part of an oil and gas permitting audit process.

The California Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM) Division has approved 24 permits including for Aera Energy LLC in Kern County near Bakersfield.

“These are the first permits issued since the process went under review last July,” said CalGEM spokesperson Don Drysdale. Aera’s permits cover wells it plans to stimulate in the North and South Belridge oilfields in the San Joaquin Valley. Another 282 permit applications are pending, he said.

The state crackdown on well stimulations followed a revamp of the oil and gas division to create CalGEM following an extended oil and water leak at a Chevron Corp. site. The state asked the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to review the pending permits, and the lab plans to continue its work until an ongoing state audit is completed later this year.

“The independent scientific review is one of the governor’s initiatives to ensure oil and gas regulations protect public health, safety and environmental protection,” said Drysdale.

“Permit-by-permit review will continue until the statewide audit is completed.”

California’s oil and gas supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk said the reviews establish a “more technically robust process” as CalGEM is requiring that applicants disclose geotechnical data. “This science and evidence-based data will confirm applicants’ modeling and verify that fracture intervals will stay inside geologic zones.”

Since Newsom took office at the beginning of 2019, California has issued 2,365 drilling permits led by Chevron with Aera second. Last year there was a 35.3% increase in year/year drilling permits, and a 28.3% increase in permits for reworking existing wells, according to oilfield statistical sources.