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Pacific Coast Energy Company - Orcutt Hill Resource Enhancement Plan

[Information up to date as of 02/01/2018]

What's New

On November 1, 2016 the Board of Supervisors approved the Seep Can Only Alternative identified in the project EIR. The Board’s decision is final and non-appealable.


Seep Can Only Project

The Seep Can Only Project addresses permitting requirements associated with the 99 existing seep cans and all potential future seeps associated with existing cyclically steamed production approved under 05PPP-00000-00001. This Project involves the permitting of existing and future seep cans only. Therefore, no new wells would be drilled and the field would continue to be developed with only the existing 96 diatomite wells.

A seep can is a temporary receptacle consisting of a perforated galvanized culvert placed vertically in the ground to collect and contain seep oil. In some cases, an electric pump is attached to the seep can. A seep can’s depth is generally approximately between 15 and 20 feet, and the diameter of a seep can is generally approximately between 24 and 48 inches. A seep can is not a production well. Oil that is collected is removed from seep receptacles via pump or vacuum truck and sent to existing onsite facilities for processing and shipping through the Oil Sales Pipeline. Any contamination of soil resulting from the initial appearance of a seep is also immediately remediated as required by State and County regulations.

Due to the unpredictable nature of oil seeps and the need for immediate action to control and collect the oil, the County historically used the Emergency Permit process under the County LUDC Section 35.82.090 to regulate and document seep can installations. However, Section 35.82.090.G of the LUDC requires that the issuance of an Emergency Permit be followed by the applicable planning permit as an "Emergency Permit shall not constitute an entitlement to the erection of permanent structures". The appropriate permit for the seep can installations is an Oil Drilling and Production Plan (ODPP). The 99 seep cans currently installed will be authorized by a Zoning Clearance which acts as a follow-on permit to the ODPP. The initial Zoning Clearance for the existing 99 seep cans shall be obtained within six (6) months of the approval of the Seep Can Only Project. Each future seep can will receive a Zoning Clearance.

Because of the need to respond to and contain seeps promptly and limit impacts to the environment, it is anticipated that the Permittee and Planning & Development (P&D) will coordinate to ensure the conditions of approval below are implemented while allowing the Permittee to contain seeps in a timely manner. P&D may grant the Permittee verbal authorization to proceed with work prior to satisfying certain requirements in the conditions as determined appropriate by P&D.

In compliance with County and US EPA requirements, PCEC has on file with DOGGR and the County a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan. The SPCC Plan contains operating procedures to prevent oil spills, control measures to prevent a spill from reaching navigable waters, and countermeasures to contain, clean up and mitigate the effects of an oil spill. The proposed Project includes a proposed Supplemental Pollution Control Plan (see Appendix A of the EIR) which sets forth a set of methods, procedures and protocols for responding to oil seeps and surface expressions that may occur at Orcutt Oil Field, consistent with requirements established by DOGGR and the County. This Project would require submittal, approval, and adherence to the requirements of the Supplemental Pollution Control Plan.

Installation of the existing seep cans began in 2008, and as of August 2016, 99 physical seep cans have been installed at the Project Site numbered 1 through 100 (number 80 is not used). Approximately 58 of the 99 seep cans are actively collecting oil, and approximately 30 of the active seep cans have electrical pumps to aid in the removal of oil. The need for new seep cans may occur on a periodic basis.

    PCEC Seep Can Table

The area of disturbance for response and containment activities since 2008 totals approximately 6.09 acres.

Current Operations

PCEC’s existing operations include a combined total of approximately 300 producing wells (including the 96 existing diatomite cyclic steamed wells, of which 82 are active, 11 are idle and 3 have been abandoned), field offices, and oil production facilities and ancillary equipment located throughout the Orcutt Oil Field leases. In addition to the current ODPP (No. 05PPP-00000-00001) for the existing diatomite cyclic steaming operations, PCEC also produces oil from several non-diatomite zones under separate permits.


The project site is located at 1555 Orcutt Hill Road, Orcutt, CA (Assessor Parcel Number 101-020-074) in the state-designated Orcutt Oil Field approximately 2.0 miles west of U.S. Highway 101 and 2.4 miles east of State Route 135. The proposed project is located within an approximately 285-acre portion of PCEC’s approximately 4,000-acre property (known as the Newlove parcel). New development would only occur on approximately 3.1 acres of the 285-acre proposed project site. The Applicant owns both the surface rights and subsurface mineral rights in the entire project site.

Project Vicinity Map


Project Chronology

  • On November 1, 2016, the Board of Supervisors approved the Seep Can Only Alternative identified in the project EIR. The decision of the Board of Supervisors is described in the November 14, 2016 action letter.

  • A hearing before the Board of Supervisors was held on October 11, 2016. The hearing was continued to November 1, 2016.

  • On July 21, 2016, PCEC appealed the Planning Commission’s denial of the project to the Board of Supervisors. The appeal package describes PCEC’s appeal issues.

  • On July 13, 2016 the County Planning Commission denied the project. The decision of the Planning Commission is described in the July 18, 2016 action letter.

  • A hearing before the County Planning Commission was held on June 29, 2016. The hearing was continued to July 13, 2016.

  • A hearing before the County Planning Commission was held on May 11, 2016. The hearing was continued to June 29, 2016.

  • The Energy and Minerals Division released the Proposed Final Environmental Impact Report on April 29, 2016.

  • February 9, 2015 - Release of Draft Environmental Impact Report.

  • March 14, 2014 - Close of NOP public comment period.

  • March 6, 2014 - NOP Scoping meeting.

  • February 13, 2014 - Release of Notice of Preparation (NOP) of an Environmental Impact Report (County Case Number14EIR-00000-00001).

  • February 15, 2013 - Application filed for an Oil & Gas Pipeline Development Plan (County Case Number 13PPP-00000-00001).


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