California’s State Lands Commission staffers come to Goleta on Wednesday to hear public comment on Venoco’s proposal to drill outside its current offshore lease. Venoco hopes to capture an estimated 840 million to 1,950 million barrels of oil lying in the South Ellwood Field by adjusting the eastern edge of its boundary “to encompass the entirety of the South Ellwood Field,” the Draft Environmental Impact Report states. To add appeal to the project — considered likely to “receive a high level of public scrutiny” in the DEIR — the oil company recently offered to end operations in 25 years at its Platform Holly and Ellwood Onshore Facility if the proposal is approved. The meetings take place two separate times, at 3 and 6 p.m., on October 19, at Goleta City Council chambers, 130 Cremona Street, Suite B.
The Draft Environmental Impact Report, which can be found here, describes the project: Venoco proposes to move the eastern boundary of its current lease where Platform Holly is anchored, PRC 3242 (or Public Resources Code 3242), which stretches from the coast to the three-mile state limit offshore. Moving the boundary would encompass an area about 3.75 miles further east toward Campus Point, and comprises about 4,300 acres of the South Ellwood Field. West of the current lease is PRC 3120, also Venoco’s. The oilfields within Venoco’s two leases hold 25 million barrels of recoverable oil, according to the DEIR. Altogether, the South Ellwood oilfield runs roughly parallel to the coastline of Goleta and Isla Vista; it’s about nine miles long by two miles wide, and about a mile or two offshore.
The oilfield is estimated to have 40 years of economic life, and of the billion or so barrels underwater in the extended lease area, about 65 million are considered recoverable. Venoco would plug with cement the lower sections of the six wells it is currently using, and then reuse the wells to “directionally drill to new bottom hole locations” moving eastward from Holly 15,000-23,000 feet. The proposal continues the use of the existing platform, drill rig, equipment, and facilities, and adds a 2,300 square-foot rack to hold the additional drill pipe. The area it proposes for the new wells contains two leases that were given up by ARCO in 1982 and 1984.
Venoco has offered to quitclaim to the state portions of PRC 3242 and PRC 3120, or 3,821 acres of those leases that sit outside the oilfield. Past oil companies have given the state similar tracts, which now form part of the California Marine Sanctuary.
Each of the meetings on Wednesday will have a presentation on the project, the EIR, alternatives, significant impacts, and proposed mitigation. Public comment will be heard by State Lands staff on the project and the Draft EIR.