A standing-room-only crowd attended a town hall in Goleta.
A standing-room-only crowd attended a town hall in Goleta on the decommissioning of Platform Holly hosted by the State Lands Commission.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Plug and abandonment work began last week by the California State Lands Commission on Platform Holly’s 30 oil and gas wells, commission officials said Thursday at a town hall in Goleta. 

Residents were provided an update on the decommissioning project during a public gathering hosted by the commission. The meeting and question-and-answer session drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 50 gathered inside Goleta City Hall.

“The big steps and milestones are starting,” commission senior attorney Seth Blackmon said. “That’s something I’m excited to announce, because we have been hoping for that for the last year and a half.” 

The commission also has finished the plug and abandonment of Pier 421 wells located on the beach below Goleta’s Sandpiper Golf Course, said Jennifer Lucchesi, executive officer for the State Lands Commission.

The next step is the California Environmental Quality Act process to remove two shore-zone piers, she said. 

“We are at an extremely critical stage in the decommissioning of Platform Holly,” Lucchesi told the crowd.

The commission has made “significant process over the last couple of years on this project, and we are at the critical stage of plugging and abandoning the wells on Platform Holly,” Lucchesi said.

Platform Holly sits in the Santa Barbara Channel about 1½ miles off Goleta.

The plug and abandonment operations started on Oct. 31, said Jeff Planck, the commission’s lead for Platform Holly decommissioning.

Phase one of the work will cement the production formation using coiled tubing on 12 to 16 wells. The next phase is finishing the abandonment of those wells, and conventional abandonment of all wells using drilling rig equipment, Planck said.

“The other 15 or so wells will be abandoned using the drilling rig and conventional methods,” he said.

Development of the environmental impact report for future disposition of Platform Holly is expected to begin “sometime” at the end of 2020, and it will be a “multi-year process,” Planck said.

It will include comprehensive and robust scoping, as well as public involvement, he said.

More than 115,000 work hours have occurred to bring Platform Holly “to the status we need in order to do the work,” Planck said.

Regarding work on the Ellwood Onshore Facility processing plant near Haskell’s Beach in western Goleta, Planck said, “There’s nothing new to report and it’s still there.”

No new operations are planned or have occurred, he said. The facility services Platform Holly by supplying it with required utilities and performing minor gas and fluid treatment, as required, to ensure compliance.

Venoco quitclaimed its interests in the South Ellwood Field leases, including Platform Holly and the Ellwood Beach Pier leases, after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017.

The quitclaim returns operational control of these assets to the commission, and ends commercial gas and oil production in state waters in the Santa Barbara Channel, according to the commission.

In total, the Lands Commission will be plugging and decommissioning 32 wells — 30 wells around Platform Holly and two off the Ellwood Onshore Facility.

Safety to the community and the environment are top priorities, Planck said.

Carpinteria-based Beacon West Energy Group, under the commission’s oversight, started daily operations and maintenance at the Ellwood Onshore Facility and Platform Holly in September 2017, according to the California State Lands Commission.

“Anyone working out on the platform has the ability to shut down the operations if they see something they feel is not safe, including the cook,” he said. “They can immediately shut down the operation and bring it to the attention of the person in charge.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.