Kern County Chevron oil spill keeps growing

Jul 24, 2019

One of the largest oil spills in California in decades is still growing. Chevron told state regulators on Monday that large quantities of crude oil and water continue to flow from a well site in Kern County.

The company now says says 974,400 gallons of fluid has flowed to the surface in the Cymric oil field, near the town of McKittrick and about 35 miles west of Bakersfield, since the incident was first detected in May. The new amount is 120,000 gallons more than the company reported Friday

About a third of the fluid mixture — around 325,000 gallons — is believed to be crude petroleum. Chevron also said that the flow has appeared in two new locations several hundred feet from a damaged, abandoned well that company officials have said is the probable source of the flow. That brings to five the number of spots — formally called surface expressions — where oil has leaked to the surface. The company said Monday the material continues to flow into a dry creek bed, where it has been contained.

Chevron told state officials on Monday it plans to appeal an order from regulators ordering the company to "take all measures" to stop the flow and prevent a recurrence of the releases. The company says the directive from the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is lacking in specifics.

"This required remedial action is vague as to, among other things, the meaning of 'all measures' and 'near the subject well,'" the company said in its intent to appeal. The company says it needs "clarity as to what DOGGR is asking it to do."

Chevron was given 10 days to provide the division with information about the incident and its oil well operations over the last two years. The company says it is not opposed to providing the division with information but "this order does not set forth the scope and timing of the data requests."

The DOGGR order also called on a Chevron technical team to meet with agency officials by Tuesday. That meeting is still scheduled to take place.

Teresa Schilling, a spokesperson for the Department of Conservation, which oversees DOGGR, pushed back against Chevron's intention to appeal.

"The order speaks for itself. Chevron must immediately take all measures necessary to stop this surface expression and prevent any new ones from occurring," Schilling said in an email Tuesday.

Chevron says the initial leak began May 10 after its crews tried to seal off a damaged and abandoned well. The company says 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 incident is believed to be the largest oil spill in California since 1990, when a tanker spilled more than 400,000 gallons of crude into the Pacific Ocean near Huntington Beach.

However, Chevron says the current spill has fouled less than an acre and that much of the spilled material has been recaptured. The company and state officials say no wildlife has been affected by the releases and it should not contaminate water sources