Newsom Tours Chevron Spill, Legislature May Seek Fracking Moratorium

Published On: July 26, 2019

Governor Newsom said this week (7/24) that he is encouraged by Chevron’s efforts to clean up what has turned into the state’s largest oil spill in decades. About 970,000 gallons have leaked from the ground at an oilfield west of Bakersfield over the last couple of months; about one-third of it is oil and the other two-thirds water.

“I’m seeing progress,” Newsom said on a visit to the site, where the oil and water are contained in a dry desert creek bed. The leaks are known as surface expressions, which can be caused by injecting steam into the ground.

Chevron uses steam injection to extract oil in the Cymric Oil Field about 35 miles West of Bakersfield. The steam softens the crude oil so it can flow more readily. It is a different process from fracking, which breaks up underground layers of rock.

The Company has said the initial leak began May 10 after its crews tried to seal off a damaged and abandoned well. The company said efforts to confirm the source of the original leak and shut it down unleashed higher flows in the weeks after the initial release was discovered.

The State issued Chevron a notice of violation ordering it to stop steam injections around the spill. The Company also increased its production of oil from wells in the area. Both actions are intended to relieve underground pressure that may be forcing the mix of oil and water to the surface.
Newsom told reporters the state would ask Chevron to turn over data so regulators can investigate the cause of the spill. Newsom also vowed to go beyond the State’s already aggressive efforts to curtail the use of fossil fuels and seek a long-term strategy to reduce oil production.

The Bakersfield Californian reported over the weekend that records show Chevron continued to inject steam into the ground at a site about 360 feet from where its crews were working on a well — a combination of activity that experts said probably contributed to the release. Chevron denied that steam played any role in the uncontrolled releases.

About the Author: Matt Ross

Matt Ross is a Senior Consultant in the energy industry and has more than a dozen years of experience in state government. He can be reached at matt at govreport.org