California's top oil regulator, losing patience with Chevron's response to the uncontrolled release of thousands of barrels of oil near McKittrick, has ordered the company to "take all measures" to make sure petroleum, water and steam do not resume rising to the surface after previous efforts to stop the flow there proved temporary.

Asserting Chevron USA Inc. "has not yet done everything that is necessary to prevent future occurrences," Friday's order by new Acting State Oil and Gas Supervisor Jason Marshall instructs the company to turn over data and analysis relating to so-called "surface expressions" of oil and water that have left more than 567,000 gallons of black fluid on the ground in a series of at least three releases dating to May at the Cymric Oil Field.

A spokesman for Marshall's agency, the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, said oil was still flowing to the surface at the time the order was drafted but that it has since halted. He added that the leak "has stopped and restarted twice previously."

"The intention is to make sure it does not reactivate again," spokesman Don Drysdale said by email Monday.

Chevron said in an email Monday it takes such matters seriously, adding, "We will review the order and continue working in a collaborative manner with the involved agencies."

The company declined to address a question about what it thinks is the cause of the surface expressions, which are not permitted in California but which have been a regulatory problem for Chevron as recently as 2011.

VIOLATION NOTICE

DOGGR issued a notice of violation against Chevron May 20 after the company reported a "new high energy surface expression." The agency ordered the company to perform a root-cause analysis of the leak within 30 days.

Chevron provided the analysis but a DOGGR representative said Monday the agency does not believe the document adequately explains the cause.

In addition to that analysis, the agency told Chevron in May to prepare a monitoring and prevention plan for review by the division no later than Nov. 20. The plan was to include a surveillance system or a pressure and flow monitoring system "that will give adequate warning to prevent surface expressions."

DOGGR also ordered the company to map the leak, "including cracks, fissures and sink holes related to underground injection work," as well as plans for restricting access to the area and training for people working in the area.

SECOND VIOLATION

Another notice of violation, issued against Chevron by DOGGR on June 13, noted a separate surface expression June 8 in the same general area. The terms of the second violation mirrored those of the first.

That second notice was amended July 1 after Chevron reported an additional leak there June 23. It noted the agency determined the events "do not meet all of the requirements of a 'low-energy seep'" and therefore constitute a violation of state rules against underground injection projects resulting in surface expressions. It ordered the company to cease steam injections within 600 feet of the two earlier leaks.

DOGGR provided a summary Friday stating no injuries have been reported in the area and the public was not placed at risk. It said the area's underlying groundwater has no beneficial use and that noisemakers were being used to keep birds and wildlife away.

REDUCING PRESSURE

The summary said Chevron had stopped steam injection within 1,000 feet of the area but that the flow of oil and water continued. About 20 injection wells have been shut down, DOGGR said, while nine idle production wells have been reactivated in order to reduce underground pressure.

Steam is used in the Cymric field to heat oil in the area as part of the production process, the agency said. It added that oil, water and steam were surfacing from three vents at the site, and that as a result, a pool of oil and water was created measuring 250 feet by 20 feet.

Surface expressions are generally caused when high-pressure steam used to warm an oil reservoir escapes beyond its intended pathways. This allows the steam to rise to the surface along with oil and water.

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

(6) comments

Veritas

I detest misinformation embedded in vitriolic diatribes. There is only one 100% solar powered charging station for Teslas, not many. There are also two partially solar powered charging stations. I actually enjoy reading the writings of verbose individuals. It is funny to see the writing errors they inevitably make, but citing blatantly incorrect information is not. And just for the record I am a full supporter of carbon free energy sources.

Stephen

Comments by critics about the source of power used to charge electric vehicles are a tawdry effort to disparage the use of these technologies. No, Tesla drivers aren't hypocrites. They are acting responsibly and, as such, snide remarks about where the power to charge them are uncalled for. Advancing technology in the transition from carbon sourced electricity to carbon free sources isn't going to happen overnight disingenuous comments by critics not withstanding.

Progress didn't end with the development of coal based power generation and, what critics haven't noticed, is the use of carbon free sources is increasing as carbon based energy is in decline. Note to Federalist: Many of the Tesla charging stations are powered by solar voltaic systems.

The science regarding the problems with carbon sourced energy is real no matter how shrilly and ignorantly those backward looking types deny there's an issue or that we should do nothing because others aren't doing something.

Federalist

@pedohater - Sorry to burst your bubble but most of that electricity you are charging your tesla with is being generated by natural gas, a fossil fuel. Your rooftop solar only truly offsets a small portion of your total usage. The solar industry is subsidized through net metering - in a big way.

PedoHater

Going to drive my Tesla home from work and run my AC with my solar panels and Tesla powerwall charging all day long for free.No fossil fuels for me. Shut these polluters down. Also, going to eat a beyond burger and drink some almond milk for dinner. Tesla is a California company by the way. Unlike McCarthy, Fong, etc.. who have never created any real jobs only sucking off the government nipple and then complain about it.

PedoHater

Karen Goh, Shannon Grove, Ralph Bailey, Vince Fong, etc....hate regulations and love oil companies and think they should be able to pollute our air and water without any repercussions....

Chad Hathaway

There are plenty of repercussions here. Fines, public outcry, expenses to deal with the seep and many others. Lets re-shift here. No water, humans or wildlife have been harmed. Safety Record: The oil and gas industry moves 95 Million Barrels of Oil around each day, another 100 million in products by boat, plane, train and every other mode of transport you can imagine in the most extreme places. I'd say the industry's safety record is second to none and unfortunately every once in a while an unplanned accident may happen as long as they don't become routine.

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