The decommissioning of Platform Holly is back on again, after a pause — as in all aspects of life — for the pandemic. The State Lands Commission held a town hall meeting on Thursday evening, announcing that the DCOR crews were back on the platform, had completed plugging four of the 30 wells, and might be completely done in 12-18 months.
During the interval, as they near the end of the abandonment of the wells, the CEQA process would begin, said Peter Regan, the drilling expert with State Lands, and start asking the public to comment on what to do with the platform, somewhere around the middle of 2022.
State Lands is engaged in two other projects in connection with Holly: the Ellwood Onshore Facility and Piers 421 at Haskell’s Beach. The wells at the onshore Piers 421 have been plugged, and the caissons and pier structures are next. Before State Lands can remove them, a CEQA document is needed, and the draft environmental report should be finalized for the piers early next year.
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The Ellwood facility is tied up in litigation, however, and until that has ended, there is little State Lands can do to put Ellwood in mothballs, said Seth Blackmun, an attorney with the agency. About half the facility is being used to run Platform Holly as it’s being shut down.
The litigation is part of the general bankruptcy of Venoco, which owned the Ellwood facility, Holly, the piers, and the Ellwood oil field under the Pacific. The company, once based in Carpinteria, failed as a result of the closure of oil facilities in the area when the main Plains All-American Pipeline oil pipe at Refugio rusted through and broke open in May 2015. Blackmun explained that because of the bankruptcy, State Lands is operating the Ellwood facility only for health and safety reasons.
The full cost to dismantle Holly and the other facilities is estimated to be $350 million, Blackmun said. The COVID delay increased the original estimate of the costs, which are being borne by the state, ExxonMobil, and the $22 million Venoco had in a bond.