Rincon Island

Decommissioning Phases
  • Phase 1 - Well Plug and Abandonment

    Phase 1 of the Rincon Project is to plug and abandon the 75 wells on the former leases—the 25 onshore wells and 50 Island wells. The Commission is currently plugging and abandoning the 25 onshore wells, recently completing its ninth well abandonment, and is preparing to start plugging the Island wells. Each well is plugged by clearing and cementing the well bore to the surface elevation, which is consistent with DOGGR's standards. After each onshore well is plugged, all well sites, including the cement well cellars and remnants, will be cleared and restored to their natural condition, removing any visual trace of the well. This work, plugging wells first then restoring all well sites at once, should reduce costs and minimize delay.    

    The plug and abandonment of the Island wells should start in the first quarter of 2019 and end by November 2020. DrilTek has developed a logistics plan to move equipment to the Island via the causeway, without the need for barging or other marine mobilization. The workover rig needed to plug the wells is on the Island and undergoing refurbishment. And repairs to the Island's facilities are underway in preparation for the work.

  • Phase 2 - Disposition of Rincon Island and the Causeway

    Phase 2 involves the final disposition of the Island, causeway, and onshore facilities. It will require environmental analysis under CEQA, extensive and comprehensive public input, discretionary approval by the Commission and other agencies, funding, and hiring a decommissioning contractor. The Commission anticipates beginning the CEQA process for the decommissioning in July 2019.

Photo of Rincon operations by CSLC staff, Sheri Pemberton
Background

Until recently, there were three state oil and gas leases associated with Rincon Island, totaling 1,551 acres of tide and submerged lands in Ventura County (map). In 2014, staff identified regulatory violations that posed a significant risk to the marine environment from an uncontrolled release of oil. The Commission, in partnership with the Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, vigorously advocated for the state's interests before and after Rincon Island Limited Partnership (RILP) filed for bankruptcy in August 2016. On November 29, 2017, the Commission adopted findings and authorized staff to accept a voluntary relinquishment of RILP's rights in the lease (known as a quitclaim deed) or terminate the leases. On November 30, 2017, the Bankruptcy Court approved a joint motion by the Commission, the chapter 11 trustee, and UBS AG Bank (RILP's largest secured creditor) to grant the Commission a quitclaim over Rincon Island (Lease No. PRC 1466), which was on December 6, 2017.

The relinquishment means the last operational offshore oil drilling and production facility in the Santa Barbara Channel is over, and RILP's interests will be added to California's Coastal Sanctuary. The Commission is now, as it has been, working to ensure public and environmental safety and to protect the state's public lands and resources.

Blow down operations

On December 21, 2017, the Commission began relieving pressure on three wells at Rincon Island, a significant development. For several years, regulators have been concerned that the wells, known as 8A and 50A, had reached levels that could be unsafe because of the deteriorated equipment. The Commission also identified high pressures on well 59 and have included that well in its pressure relief operations.

In August 2016, DOGGR issued an emergency order requiring the lessee in part, to relieve well pressure. While the lessee partially relieved pressure, the levels soon returned to the previous levels. The Commission's contractor, DrilTek, Inc., safely bled down the pressures on the wells. Natural gases were burned or flared, and oil and fluids were moved off the island.