The state of California recently reached a milestone in a decommissioning project of oil and gas wells located off the coast of Ventura County.

The California State Lands Commission said in a release on Feb. 4 that it had plugged and abandoned all 74 wells associated with the Rincon Island decommissioning project ahead of schedule, under budget and without incident or spillage. The Commission and its contractor Driltek Inc. collaborated with the California Department of Conservation’s California Geological Energy Management Division (CalGEM) for the project.

Decommissioning the offshore structures is a major part of California’s transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy future, according to the release.

“We look forward to bringing this same skill and commitment to the remaining decommissioning work that lies ahead as California sets its sights on our clean energy future,” Lieutenant Governor and State Lands Commission Chair Eleni Kounalakis said in a statement on Feb. 4 commenting on the milestone achieved thus far by the group.

The State Lands Commission also partnered with CalGEM to plug and abandon two additional onshore wells that were not part of state lease operations but had been deserted, the release said.

“I commend the hard work and strong partnership established on this project,” State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk added. “Driven by science and sound engineering practices, CalGEM will continue to provide expertise and support as we work with key partners like the State Lands Commission to protect the health and safety of our state’s residents and the environment.”

Rincon Island off the coast of Ventura County is one of a handful of remaining offshore oil structures in state waters. The decommissioning work of Rincon, which the State Lands Commission took responsibility for in 2017 after the operator declared bankruptcy, is divided into three phases: 

  • Plugging and abandoning the 74 wells, comprised of 50 wells on Rincon Island and 24 state onshore production wells;
  • Developing a feasibility study and completing an analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act, which will inform a decommissioning plan for Rincon Island, the onshore facility and the causeway that connects the artificial island to the mainland; and
  • Executing the decommissioning plan.

With all 74 wells plugged and abandoned, the primary component of phase one is now complete. The remaining phase one work, consisting of site clearance activities to remove decrepit oil production infrastructure, is underway and anticipated to be complete by June.

Phase two, which will include extensive public outreach and engagement, will begin soon and is anticipated to be complete in 2022.

The Commission will continue to perform necessary maintenance work and provide security onshore, at the causeway, and on Rincon Island and until a decommissioning plan is executed.

The Commission’s contractor, Driltek, is a privately-held company that specializes in life-cycle oil and gas operations management from engineering design and construction, to surface operations and decommissioning. Founded in 1989, the company has served traditional E&P companies, real estate firms and municipal, state and federal agencies over the past three decades.