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Goleta Turns Its Energy to Offshore Options

Council gets extensive update on status of projects, proposals and possibilities

The Goleta City Council got a glimpse of the city’s energy options and fronts at Tuesday’s council meeting, and officials spent the majority of their presentation discussing offshore oil implications.

Venoco Inc., which operates out of a facility in western Goleta, was the subject of most of the update, the majority of which was given by Doug Anthony of the Santa Barbara County Energy Division.

Currently, Venoco pipes in oil to its Ellwood Onshore Facility, near Bacara Resort & Spa, from Platform Holly. The product then is transported by pipeline southeast to the Devereux area to be stored at the Ellwood Marine Terminal, located on UCSB land that is leased to Venoco until 2016 (a lease with the state for the offshore portion will be up for renewal in 2013). From there, the oil is piped offshore to the single-hulled barge Jovalan, which then transports the crude to market. Jovalan is the last remaining single-hulled oil barge in operation on the California coast.

By the end of the year, however, Venoco must be using a double-hulled barge or a pipeline to transport oil onshore. The company wants to construct a pipeline to connect the Ellwood Onshore Facility directly to the Plains All-American Pipeline near Las Flores Canyon, about 10 miles to the northwest.

In the meantime, Venoco has said there will be three more trips with Jovalan, Anthony said. After that, it will be commissioning the double-hulled barge, Olympic Spirit.

Jovalan makes 20-26 trips per year but the new barge may mean fewer trips, Anthony said. Because the Olympic Spirit has a greater capacity — it can transport up to 78,000 barrels of oil vs. Jovalan’s 55,000 — just 21 trips a year may be necessary, he said.

The State Lands Commission renewed Venoco’s lease, which terminates Feb. 28, 2013, but the company’s onshore lease terminates in 2016. Within 180 days of that deadline, the site must be decommissioned and cleaned up.

There are 43 total oil leases off Santa Barbara County, and over the past year, there’s been an influx of proposals in the outer continental shelf.

One of the most visible to county residents has been Plains Exploration & Production Co.‘s Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil and gas project in northern Santa Barbara County. That proposal will likely be coming back before the State Lands Commission this year.

Anthony said Venoco would also like to see lease boundaries extended in state tidelands in the South Ellwood Field.

The Ellwood field stretches east and west beyond Venoco’s current lease, but it’s unclear if it’s all one field at this point. If it’s determined to be separate, state law says it’s off-limits. It’s unclear how much oil the company could get to or how long the project would last.

Another issue lies in several wells Venoco would like recommissioned, wells that haven’t been producing since the 1990s.

Also broached was the topic of offshore platforms that are no longer in use — and the active debate about what to do with them.

Many in the scientific community say the submerged platforms serve as a habitat for marine life. Questions of how much it would cost companies to remove the platforms and where the money goes is also an open question and one that will only likely be answered by legislation.

The platforms could be used as stations for wave energy equipment, Anthony said, particularly on the south side of the Channel Islands, and that wave energy, as well as wind, have significant possibilities throughout the county.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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