Chevron oil spill near McKittrick

This photo posted on Facebook shows a large oil spill near McKittrick soon after it started in May.

California regulators have issued a notice of violation against Chevron and ordered a limited ban on nearby production after a steaming operation in the Cymric Oil Field produced a pool of oil 250 feet long and 20 feet wide near McKittrick.

The state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources said Friday the "surface expression" has brought a total of 13,515 barrels of oil and water, or 567,630 gallons, to the surface during at least three episodes between May 10 and June 23.

No injuries have been reported and the state said the spill presents no risk to the public. DOGGR said in a statement the area is remote and the underlying groundwater has no beneficial use. The spill was reported to be 3½ miles from McKittrick.

Noisemakers are being used to keep birds and wildlife away from the spill, the agency said. It said 20 steam-injection wells in the area have been shut down and nine idle production wells have been activated in an attempt to reduce pressure that has pushed the oil to the surface.

DOGGR has ordered Chevron to cease all steam injection work within 600 feet of the well. The company ended up halting such activity within a 1,000-foot radius, but the spilling continued.


Chevron said by email Friday that oil is no longer leaking at the site and the spill has been contained but that it has not yet pinpointed the source of the oil.

The company said it discovered June 8 that a seep it first noticed a month earlier had reactivated. On both occasions, Chevron said, it alerted the appropriate regulatory agencies and that it continues working with them to determine the source.

"Chevron is using pumps to remotely extract fluids from the containment area until regulatory agencies deem the area safe for entry and full cleanup," Chevron stated. "There has been no impact to waterways or wildlife."


Surface expressions are prohibited under state regulations but they have occasionally happened in Kern County. Past instances have resulted from a process called cyclic steaming, in which steam is injected at high pressure at shallow depths.

Spills happen when this pressure accidentally spreads beyond intended targets, causing oil, water, steam and sometimes rocks to shoot from the ground. Similar but smaller examples of this were a big problem for Chevron about 10 years ago in the Midway-Sunset field near Taft.

DOGGR has worked to address surface expressions through regulatory changes in recent years. This is the first report of a large one in several years.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf. Sign up at for free newsletters about local business.

(10) comments

Johnathan Swift

Chevron's statement, "There has been no impact to waterways or wildlife", is patently untrue. The spill degraded scarce native habitat and obviously killed vegetation and wildlife. In addition, the McKittrick area in which the spill occurred supports a number of endangered species. Similar impacts to habitat during the course of permitted routine operations would require compensation in the form of lands set aside for conservation purposes. Chevron should compensate for the damage done.


C'mon, like climate change, this is simply an act of mother nature. Yes human error created it but, hey, Gaia created us, therefore.....voila.....nature did it. I agree with my conservative friends, we are arrogant to think we can destroy the earth. Yeah, but the earth can certainly destroy us. Imagine a nuclear party involving all the players, earth would survive. Us, not so much. You don't have to hug a tree for incentive, hug a kid.


Interim head of state oil and gas agency named; cleanup to start on 800,000-gallon spill in Kern thats a embarrassing......Jason Marshall has been named acting director of the Division of Oil, Gas and Natural Resources at the California Department of Conservation following a shakeup at the agency ordered by the governor on Thursday. Marshall takes over from Ken Harris, who was dismissed after Gov. Gavin Newsom learned from The Desert Sun/USA TODAY and watchdog groups that fracking permits had doubled without his knowledge since he took office and that seven supervisors charged with regulating the industry own shares in major oil companies.

Fubar Bako

No wonder Senator Shannon Grove didn't want the head of the OIl & Gas Commission to be replaced. Shannon Grove's family got filthy rich off oilfield corruption. Insider trading, sweetheart deals, jobs and no-bid contracts for family members- Senator Shannon Grove does it all


" . . . the spill presents no risk to the public." ---- "Drill now . . . drill here . . . drill often . . . !" ----- Easy to reclaim, pump to tanks, crack gasoline, lower gasoline prices, reduce taxes . . . buy at Shell and Sinclair in Buttonwillow--cheapest gas in Bako . . . ! ---- Good-on-ya, Chevron . . . and your steam tech . . . !


Looks like it may be in a natural runoff area also, Ouch! Local and state will get fat off the fines from this mess.


Boy I’ll tell ya , the labor force really has taken a turn for the worse , Sad really , this is neglect , and all involved should be terminated ,


Chad Hathaway, Shannon Grove and Vince Fong say we don't need regulations...let them bathe and drink in this for a year


No they don't, they've said regulation needs to make sense. This is an OILFIELD, not the Valley Plaza. Do you drive? Use plastic? Wear clothes? Whether or not you want to admit it, petroleum, at least for the time being, is necessary. People aren't bathing out in the oilfields.


As you say... "for the time being". The problem is that oil exploiters lobby to keep the status quo and spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) about renewables including energy, plastic & clothing. In fact, once people actually started paying attention renewables starting making breakthrough after breakthrough. The only people advocating oil are those that benefit from it monetarily.

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