Another study is under way to look at hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and increased seismic activity in an urban oilfield sitting in a hilly southwest residential portion of Los Angeles. The producer in the crosshairs of skeptics, Plains Exploration and Production Co. (PXP), is undaunted in its efforts to try to make increased drilling activity in a mostly residential area work, according to local news reports.

Without providing much detail, an executive with PXP told the Los Angeles Times that the company has commissioned a “first-of-its-kind” study of fracking’s seismic impact in an urban environment as a means of being responsive to “about a dozen” claims from residents in a five-mile radius of the Inglewood Oilfield, a nearly 90-year-old field about 10 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles. The claims attribute everything from cracked swimming pools to uneven garage doors to drilling in the 1,000-acre oilfield.

PXP officials have said they are addressing the concerns of nearby residents, and that they will continue to be a “responsible operator,” according to the Times report. Nevertheless, more than 400 people showed up for a community meeting earlier this month to push for a ban on fracking.

A major earthquake fault — Newport-Inglewood — that is said to be capable of a 7.4 magnitude quake runs through the area, traversing from Long Beach through most of West Los Angeles.

The oilfield was mostly dormant until 2003 when PXP, through three-dimensional seismic drilling, found shale oil potential, but it ran into complaints from residents and exploration and production work was halted periodically by county authorities until 2008. Environmental groups then filed a class action lawsuit challenging the adequacy of environmental protections at the oilfield. A settlement was reached last year, including provisions for PXP launching its fracking study.

Nearly a century ago Southern California was one of the largest fossil fuel basins in the world, and four years ago when global oil prices hit $150/bbl the region’s lightly drilled or previously abandoned fields became potential targets for new activity (see Daily GPI, July 8, 2008). Since then the prospect and reality of more drilling has stirred concerns among communities that surround still-producing fields in southeast and west Los Angeles County, Long Beach and the Ventura area northwest of Los Angeles.

Texas-based PXP quickly proposed adding more than 50 new wells annually to its 1,000-acre properties, which are surrounded by high-priced residential areas in adjoining hills sitting halfway between Hollywood to the north and Los Angeles International Airport to the south.