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Venoco’s Ellwood Project Hearing Delayed Due to Refugio Oil Spill

Venoco's proposed South Ellwood Oil Field project would expand the company's oil lease to the east and redrill six existing wells into that eastern portion. (State Lands Commission image)

The State Lands Commission delayed this week's planned meeting to discuss Venoco Inc.’s proposal to drill six wells into a new area of the South Ellwood Oil Field, saying the move was “to avoid any distraction from the efforts to address the recent oil spill response near Refugio Beach.”

The May 19 spill resulted from a ruptured Plains All American Pipeline line transporting crude oil from Venoco and ExxonMobil offshore platforms.

With the delay, there is a new deadline to submit comments about the scope of the environmental impact report documents reviewing the potential impacts and alternatives to Venoco’s proposed project.

Venoco wants to amend one of its state oil and gas leases to expand farther east and include 3,400 acres, in exchange for relinquishing 3,800 acres in northern and southern portions of its leases in the same area, according to the State Lands Commission.

Venoco has produced about 75 million barrels of oil from Platform Holly since 1969, and expects to get another 25 million barrels from existing wells. With the eastern boundary lease extension, Venoco believes it could get another 60 million barrels through Platform Holly, the application says.

Six existing wells on Platform Holly would be redrilled to extend into this new area, and the company would use existing pipelines and processing facilities, including the Ellwood Onshore Facility in Goleta.

The plan to redrill these wells would be to drill in 2017, 2018, 2019 and the other three wells between 2023 and 2030, according to the State Lands Commission. There are currently 30 well slots and not all of them are in production.

Venoco will not use hydraulic fracturing as part of this project, and is not proposing to extend the life of Platform Holly or the Ellwood Oil Field past 2055, according to the application.

Tuesday's meeting was rescheduled for June 24, with sessions at 3 and 6 p.m. at the Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave.

The deadline to submit comments about the scope of the environmental review has been extended to June 29.

Comments can be sent to Eric Gillies, assistant chief of the SLC division of environmental planning and management at: California State Lands Commission, 1000 Howe Ave., Suite 100, South Sacramento, CA 95825 or emailed to [email protected]

The City of Goleta sued the State Lands Commission over its approval of another Venoco project to restart its oil production facility at Haskell’s Beach.

The commission voted to re-certify the environmental documents in December and allow Venoco to resume oil production from that pier and process the oil at the Ellwood Onshore Facility in Goleta.

City Attorney Tim Giles has said the lawsuit, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, will put the project timeline on hold.

The lawsuit has a hearing scheduled for Dec. 15 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, he said.

Goleta doesn’t have authority over project approval, but Venoco would need the city’s approval to do the processing at the pier and permits for the pipelines between the well and the EOF, which are within city jurisdiction.

Goleta’s City Council also adopted an ordinance that establishes non-conforming use termination procedures, which can put an expiration date on certain zoning uses. The Ellwood Oil Field is one of the city’s legal non-conforming uses, a property that is no longer in compliance with land-use or zoning rules.

The city hasn’t scheduled a termination hearing for the Ellwood Oil Field, Giles said Wednesday.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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