Slant drilling off the Carpinteria coast continues to be on the minds of Venoco Inc. officials, who have submitted a revised project application to state and local authorities requesting permission to drill from their current onshore lease.
Venoco officials have said they could access thousands of barrels of oil a day via extended-reach — or slant — drilling, gaining access to oil and natural gas under the Santa Barbara Channel without using an offshore platform.
It’s been more than three years since Carpinteria voters resoundingly said no to Measure J, Venoco’s ballot initiative that would have allowed extended-reach drilling from the company’s facility on Dump Road.
Venoco took the issue to voters after years of wading through the City of Carpinteria’s planning process, and because the city’s General Plan doesn’t have provisions for slant drilling at an onshore location.
But the lure of hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and revenue for the city and Santa Barbara County wasn’t enough for voters, 70 percent of whom rejected the Paredon project in the June 2010 election.
The project has been sitting in the city’s queue ever since, and Venoco last week delivered a revised project description to the city and the State Lands Commission.
In an interview with Noozhawk, Venoco community relations manager Lisa Rivas talked about the project’s changes and what’s ahead. The company is required by the state and the mineral owners to develop the lease as long as it’s in charge of it.
“We are moving this project forward trying to find the balance with the state and private mineral owners and the local community,” Rivas said.
If the City of Carpinteria spurns the revisions, Venoco won’t lose the lease because the city only has authority over changes to the onshore operations within city limits.
After Measure J’s defeat, Rivas said, Venoco “went back to drawing board” and looked at all options, including the possibility of extended-reach drilling from outside the city’s boundaries.
“What we keep coming back to is that the best, safest, most environmentally sound option is working from our existing lease,” she said.
Among the main differences between the two applications is the reduction in the number of wells to 22 from the 35 in the original proposal, which means a smaller amount of oil will be accessed. The estimated production would be 9,000 barrels of oil per day in the new proposal, down from 11,000 in the previous iteration.
“The reduction comes from us sharpening our pencils to see what realistically could we do,” Rivas said.
The new project would also have active drilling take place over three years instead of six.
In addition, the previous project talked about camouflaging the onshore drilling rig with a lighthouse facade, which Rivas said was “an interesting concept” but won’t go forward because it would involve creating a permanent structure.
Venoco’s revisions will be reviewed by both oversight agencies, and an independent third party either will be directed by the city to update the existing environmental impact report or create a new one, Rivas said.
When voters defeated the ballot measure in 2010, they also turned down the perks that came along with the Paredon project: a 22-acre land grant and a $5 million donation to the Carpinteria Education Foundation, among others.
While contributions to the community aren’t necessarily off the table this time, Rivas said she expects to have a conversation about what the company will contribute as the project makes its way through the approval process.
“Venoco fully expects to hear from the community and have those conversations to talk about what kind of contributions could occur and how monies could be used,” she said. “There will be some revenues to be shared beyond the royalties.”
The way the royalties will be calculated has not changed since Measure J, Rivas said. But she said the royalties are attached only to the offshore lease, so if Venoco is granted permission to proceed only onshore, and not offshore, those royalties will not materialize.
Carpinteria officials are expected to review the project in the next 30 days.