Some folks, including the author of a recent letter to this newspaper, are fond of citing an incident that occurred half a century ago as a reason to block any new oil production. The East Cat Canyon oil deposit is a heavy oil that will not flow to the surface without heating the reservoir – it is the consistency of warm toothpaste, flows slowly and is easily controlled. The risk of blowout from a heavy oil reservoir is extremely low, based on my 40 years of experience as a petroleum geologist. I understand the author’s concern, but the terminology of blowout does not appropriately apply to this re-development project.
Today in Santa Barbara, we have the advantage of producing the oil we need using current technology, under extensive local, state and federal regulations that protect our air and water quality as well as the environment. The re-development plan proposed by Aera Energy calls for new wells to be drilled that will follow modern technologies and regulations. Any existing wells that might be utilized will be thoroughly inspected and certified by DOGGR [the state Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources].
Santa Barbarans, and nearly everyone else in California, still rely on oil as our primary source of energy for transportation, lighting, heating, and cooling our homes, and producing most of the products that support the quality of life we enjoy. California currently imports approximately 65 percent of the oil that we collectively demand. The East Cat Canyon project will help California securely bridge to the electrical future that is proposed by the letter writer. That’s why projects like Aera Energy’s East Cat Canyon Redevelopment project are worthy of consideration upon conclusion of the County’s review.
David Miner is a geologist in Grover Beach.