Pacific Region Facts and Figures

Total Active Leases

43

Total Acreage for All Active Leases

217,669

Number of Producing Oil & Gas Leases

43

Acreage for Producing Oil & Gas Leases

217,669

Number of Nonproducing Leases

0

Acreage for Nonproducing Leases

0

Barrels of Oil per Day
(As of July 2013)

51,621

Cubic Feet of Gas per Day
(As of July 2013)

74 million

Total Oil & Gas Wells Drilled
(As of July 2013)

1,146

Cumulative Production of Oil
(As of July 2013)

1.31 billion barrels

Cumulative Production of Gas
(As of July 2013)

1.76 trillion cubic feet

Total Development Wells Drilled
(As of July 2013)

1,080

Total Exploration Wells Drilled
(As of July 2013)

336

Oil & Gas Platforms

23

Miles of Pipeline

213

Companies Operating Pacific OCS Facilities

6

 

Answers to Questions About Energy Development Offshore Southern California
Records in the Pacific OCS Region
Inspections of OCS Facilities (CY 2009)
Well Activities

Frequently Asked Questions
What is the OCS?
Why develop offshore?
How much oil is spilled or "leaked" from OCS oil and natural gas operations?
Who makes sure that the oil companies operate safely and do not pollute?
Where does tar on the beach come from?
Why not move the platforms further offshore where they cannot be seen?
What is a geophysical/seismic survey?
What is drilling mud? Is it toxic?
What are the potential impacts to the sea otter from oil?
Where do whales migrate offshore?
How much do OCS facilities contribute to air pollution?
How do OCS activities affect commercial fishing?  

Well Activities

Applications for Permit to Drill Wells Approved
(CY 2010 as of 3/22/2011)

8

Development Wells Spudded
(CY 2010 as of 3/22/2011)

8

Exploration Wells Spudded

0

 

Inspections of OCS Facilities (CY 2010 as of 3/22/2011)

Drilling Inspections

15 

Production Inspections

148 

Workover/completion Inspections

20 

Abandonment Inspections

Environmental Inspections

295 

Meter Inspections

82 

H2S and Other Inspections

399 

Total Number of Inspections

961 

  

Records in the Pacific Region

Platform in Deepest Water

Platform Harmony: Lease OCS-P 0190

1,198'

Platform in Shallowest Water

Platform Gina: Lease OCS-P 0202

95'

Platform with Most Well Slots

Platform Gilda: Lease OCS-P 0216

96

Platform Farthest from Land

Platform Grace: Lease OCS-P 0217

10½ Miles

Exploratory Well in Deepest Water

Lease OCS-P 0353 Well #1

1,911'

Exploratory Well in Shallowest Water

Lease OCS-P 0361 Well #4

68'

Exploratory Well Deepest Depth

Lease OCS-P 0234 Well #3

18,318'

Well with Longest Reach

Lease OCS-P 0193 Well #SA-16

 6.3 miles  

 

 Q. What is the OCS?

A. According to a United States Congressional statute known as the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), the term Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) refers to all submerged lands lying seaward and outside of the boundaries of the respective States. Generally referred to as "Federal waters,” the OCS encompasses the seabed and subsoil in which natural resources of vital importance to the Nation are found: nearly 17 percent of our oil reserves, 25 percent of our natural gas reserves, and resources of commercially important minerals including manganese, gold, phosphorite, and construction aggregates. In 1945, because of the potential value of such minerals, President Truman proclaimed that the Federal Government had jurisdiction over all offshore resources, from the coastline seaward, and a 1947 Supreme Court case essentially upheld the Truman Proclamation and the claims of the Federal Government.

However, in 1953, Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed the Submerged Lands Act which established natural resource jurisdiction seaward out to 3 geographical miles for practically all coastal States, including California. The seabed and subsoil resources landward of this offshore State/Federal boundary are managed by the State. Offshore mineral resources in the 3-mile band of California State waters (or Tidelands, as it is referred to in the State) are managed by the California State Lands Commission and the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources. In the cases of Texas and the Gulf of Mexico coast of Florida, because those States had established larger offshore submerged land areas before achieving statehood, State waters extend to 3 marine leagues (about 9 miles).

A few months after enactment of the Submerged Lands Act, the OCSLA was signed into law. The OCSLA authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, on behalf of the Federal Government, to manage the energy and mineral resources, including oil and gas, on the OCS. The seaward extent of the OCS was not made clear by the OCSLA. However, it is limited by international law which extends the OCS to 200 nautical miles seaward from the coastline but does not take into consideration the State/Federal boundary. So, under the OCSLA and international law, the Federal OCS begins at the State submerged lands line and extends seaward at least another 197 nautical miles. This overall 200 mile legal definition of a coastal Nation's OCS is referred to as its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

However, the OCS may extend beyond 200 miles if the outer limits of the coastal margin, as measured by certain geological concepts, go past that boundary. Depending on factors such as sediment thickness and water depth, the geologic continental margin can extend for hundreds of miles from shore. There are about a dozen nations, including the United States, which have continental shelves that extend beyond 200 miles. In the U.S., broad geological margins extend beyond 200 miles north of Alaska, on the Atlantic coast, and in the Gulf of Mexico. In the Pacific, however, the continental margin is narrow and thus the U.S. claims natural resource jurisdiction only to the seaward extent of its west coast EEZ, 200 nautical miles from the shoreline of California, Washington, and Oregon.

Q. Why develop offshore?

A. Efforts to develop and expand the use of viable alternatives continue, including emerging technologies for production of energy from renewable resources on the OCS (such as ocean wave and current, wind and solar power. However, for the foreseeable future, it appears that natural gas and oil will remain the primary sources of reliable energy.

California is a major consumer of petroleum products and ranks among the top five oil consumers, worldwide. (Others include: the United States as a whole, the Commonwealth of Independent States [former Soviet Union], Japan, and Germany.) Sixty percent of California's energy use is based on oil and another 30 percent on natural gas. California produces about 45 percent of the oil it consumes 20 percent of which is produced offshore. Both onshore and offshore production is declining.

Natural gas is a clean source of energy, and the gas produced offshore Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties is used locally to heat homes and offices. The OCS platforms off California have produced over three times as much gas as used by the residential users in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties.

Given California's increasing population and continued thirst for energy, new sources of natural gas and oil will be required. Californians will need to decide how this will be accomplished through local offshore production, by increased tanker traffic for the importation of oil, through massive state wide conservation efforts, as well as by the long-term development of renewable energy resources.

Q. Who makes sure that the oil companies operate safely and do not pollute?

A. The companies are held responsible for safety of its employees and the prevention of pollution. Nevertheless, every day of the year, Bureau inspectors are offshore scrutinizing drilling and production operations to ensure that the operations are being conducted safely and that the environment is protected. These inspectors conduct unannounced inspections on each facility on a routine basis and inspect each facility offshore California at least once a week. Furthermore, there is an extensive annual inspection of each facility sometimes lasting 2-3 weeks, depending on the complexity of the facility.

Any violation found is reported and resolution pursued to ensure that corrective action is taken. The Bureau has broad powers of enforcement and can require extreme measures, such as facility shutdowns and civil penalties, if warranted. Any violation that causes injury, death or environmental damage could result in loss of life or environmental damage is considered serious and is reviewed for civil penalty assessment. Criminal case referrals can also be made to the Office of Inspector General for knowing and willful violations.

Q. How much oil is spilled or "leaked" from OCS natural gas and oil operations offshore California?

A. In 1969, a Federal platform offshore Santa Barbara experienced a blowout in one of its wells; an estimated 80,000 barrels (3,360,000 gallons) or oil was released into the ocean. The result of this incident was at least twofold: (1) the environmental conscience of the Nation was raised and the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental legislation were passed and (2) requirements for safety devices imposed by the Federal Government forever changed offshore operations. There has not been a spill of this size from California OCS operations since the Santa Barbara spill.

Several redundancies are provided in all platform systems associated with drilling and production operations, to ensure safety and to prevent flow from wells during a contingency such as an earthquake. These platform operations are carefully conducted and regulated to ensure safe and environmentally sound operations. 

Since the tragic oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969, about 883 barrels of oil have been spilled as a result of OCS natural gas and oil operations offshore California.  This spillage represents the cumulative loss from small spills ranging in size from a few drops to a gallon to a 163 barrel spill from a pipeline in State waters carrying OCS production to shore.

Q. Where does tar on the beach come from?

A. The California nearshore and coastal areas are replete with natural seeps. It is estimated that over 1,000 barrels of oil each week are released into the environment from these seeps. From the Coal Oil Point seeps alone, up to 170 barrels a day may be entering the ocean.  There is some evidence that commercial production of the reservoirs offshore has reduced the amount of oil that would naturally seep into the marine environment by reducing pressure in the reservoirs.

Oil, tar, and gas seeps are common along the California coast. These seeps are part of the natural environment, and geological and archeological evidence shows that seepage has occurred throughout California for thousands of years. Scientists have found that seepage from one of the largest seeps known offshore Coal Oil Point ranged from 150-170 barrels per day. At least 2,000 active oil and gas seeps have been mapped in waters offshore California. Recently, studies have been conducted on natural seeps in the Santa Barbara Channel and Santa Maria Basin. Learn more about natural seeps.

Q. Why not move the platforms further offshore where they cannot be seen?

A. The platforms have to be located where the oil is. Oil occurs and accumulates where there are thick sedimentary rocks. Off California, this occurs in the nearshore basins. In recent years, the extended-reach well technology has improved markedly, resulting in the ability to use fewer platforms for the recovery of resources.  In the Santa Barbara Channel, for example, ExxonMobil is using this technology to produce oil from 4 1/2 miles away from the wellhead on Platform Heritage, thus producing the Sacate field using extended-reach well technology, obviating the need for an additional platform.   As this technology improves, additional production from existing facilities becomes more promising.

Q. What is a geophysical/seismic survey?

A. Geophysical/seismic surveying is a method of mapping below the seafloor using sound waves. The sound waves, typically made with bursts of compressed air, are reflected back from rock layers below the seafloor and are recorded. Geophysicists use these data to look for potential oil and gas resources.

One of the concerns expressed in the past when seismic surveys are proposed are the effects on marine mammals. While there are only limited data available to evaluate the effects from this noise on marine mammals, seismic surveys cover thousands of survey miles yearly throughout the world oceans, with no reported effects on marine mammal numbers or distribution in the surveyed areas. The National Marine Fisheries and other marine mammal researchers continue to study this issue. In the interim, to reduce the chance of impacts on marine mammals, proper precautions are being taken. For example, the survey companies take several precautionary measures in their operations to provide additional assurance that the animals will not be harmed. One such measure is shutting down the survey operation when marine mammals are in the vicinity.

Q. What is drilling mud?

A. Drilling mud is literally a mud that is pumped down the hole when a well is drilled. The mud serves several important functions including providing a way to remove displaced rock fragments (called drill cuttings) from the hole and keeping the equipment in the hole cool while drilling. Because mud is typically disposed of into the ocean, the components (ingredients) of the mud are carefully monitored and their effects studied.

Drilling mud is not poisonous, but it is required to be tested for acute toxicity unless the composition of the mud meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of one of the eight generic muds listed in the current National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (http://www.epa.gov/region9/water/npdes/permits.html#watersca – click “Permits in California”).  If the mud is a generic mud, then no toxicity tests are required. If it is not a generic mud, then toxicity tests must be conducted. Mud is made up primarily of clay, barium sulfate, and water, with water making up about 90% of the mixture. The materials used to make the mud can contain minerals and impurities which are required to be monitored. Additives that once were added to mud and found to have been harmful, such as chromium, have been banned. Animals and plants in the water column adjacent to a drilling operation may be adversely affected by the increased turbidity of the water caused by the mud.

Extensive studies have been conducted to monitor the potential impacts to the environment from discharge of drilling muds. To date, these studies have found that effects are short-lived and confined to a localized area around the platform. Studies to determine subtle, long-term effects caused by drilling muds have been inconclusive; effects of muds cannot be distinguished from other changes in the environment.

Q. What are the potential impacts to the sea otter from oil?

A. Sea otters are particularly vulnerable to oiling. In California, the sea otter population was listed as "threatened species" primarily because of its small size and limited distribution, and the risk of oil spills. Oil may compromise a sea otter’s fur coat thus hampering its ability to keep warm.  Sea otters may also groom and ingest oil trapped in their fur or inhale volatile components of freshly spilled oil.  In each case, otters exposed to oil may become sick and die.  To help counter the effects of oil spills, a permanent site has been established at the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory to clean and rehabilitate sea otters. BOEMRE has funded many studies to better understand sea otter ecology and the care and rehabilitation of oiled animals including a guide specifically for sea otters [Emergency Care and Rehabilitation of Sea Otters: A Guide for Oil Spills Involving Fur Bearing Animals,  Williams, T. M. and Davis, R.W., editors, University of Alaska Press, 1995]

Q. Where do whales migrate offshore?

A. Nearly all large whales seasonally migrate between their feeding grounds and their breeding and calving areas Gray whales migrate closest to shore and pass through the Santa Barbara Channel during their migration between Alaska and Mexico. Each summer, hundreds of blue and humpback whales travel from the far corners of the North Pacific Ocean to gather along southern and central California coast and take advantage of abundant food resources. While oil and natural gas development activities have been raised as a concern both in terms of potential noise and accidental oil spill impacts, whales visiting California appear to be unaffected.

Q. Do OCS facilities contribute to air pollution?

A. The OCS oil and gas platforms offshore California contribute approximately 1% of the total nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in the tri-county area (Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties). The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 transferred control of OCS air quality from the Bureau to the EPA, which delegated regulatory authority to local air agencies to permit and control emissions from OCS oil & gas facilities. The delegated authority required that offshore sources are regulated the same as those sources located in onshore areas. Rigorous controls to minimize emissions from Pacific OCS platform operations have been instituted by the local air agencies. The platforms have permanent control technologies in place for combustion equipment rated at 50 hp or greater to minimize NOx emissions from those operations.

An example of non-combustion equipment controls placed on all the platforms are Fugitive Emission Inspection and Maintenance programs to eliminate hydrocarbon emissions resulting from leaking valve and flanges on the facilities. Emissions from support vessels servicing the platforms such as crew and supply boats are also considered by the air agencies in their permitting activities as part of the platform's total potential to emit. In addition, electrification of the newer platforms in the Pacific Region has substantially reduced the potential for NOx emissions from platform operations using diesel-fuel combustion equipment. All platforms are inspected on a regular basis to ensure compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements. Even with the platforms off California being among the cleanest offshore air quality oil & gas facilities in the world, the Bureau and local air agencies continue to devise strategies to further minimize air quality impacts from those sources.

Q. How do OCS activities affect commercial fishing?

A. OCS activities can interfere with commercial fishing in two ways, both of which have financial ramifications for the fishermen: (1) by precluding traditional fishing grounds with exploratory drilling vessels or with platforms and (2) through loss of income either through gear loss on underwater obstructions or lack of access to an area. Potential economic losses are mitigated through direct compensation to fishermen, in most cases, and through enhancement programs. (Enhancement programs are measures undertaken to build up the fishery of concern or to enable the fishermen to operate more profitably. These out-of-kind enhancement programs might include more storage for gear, etc.) The Bureau works with the fishermen to define and address the potential concerns early in any permitting process. Furthermore, a fisheries liaison office has been established in Santa Barbara to provide fishermen an avenue to effectively resolve conflicts with the offshore oil and gas industry.