Long-ago one of the nation’s centers for oil and natural gas production, Southern California, with today’s historically high oil and natural gas prices, is experiencing a resurgence of reworking some of its old wells, many of which are surrounded by housing and commercial development. Improved technology and the high wholesale prices have given the area’s wells a “new lease on life,” according to a report in Monday’s Los Angeles Times.

Abandoned wells have been brought back and existing ones are taking on new-found value, according to the LA Times‘ news report examining the approximately 4,000 wells still active in Southern California after a peak decades ago of some 33,000 active wells.

The head of the Southern California branch of the state’s Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources Division, Rich Baker, seriously said some people might consider tearing down some housing to start new oil drilling. Companies reportedly have brought 45-year-old wells back into production, according to a spokesperson for the California Independent Petroleum Association, the Times reported.

One area focused on was Signal Hill, a small community surrounded by the city of Long Beach, CA, that has built many homes and commercial buildings on lands that were once covered with oil derricks. A combination of the growth of the environmental movement and the much maligned offshore Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 hastened the shutting down of a lot of onshore oil wells in the region, many of which were only about 20% to 25% used up, according to Iraj Ershagi, the head of the University of Southern California’s petroleum engineering program.

The Times‘ report said that a surprising amount of land in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, which combined have a population of more than 12 million people, sits atop oil reservoirs. Some industry people such as Ershagi argue that more oil in the area could be tapped without knocking down developments, using slant drilling techniques now perfected.

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