Rincon Island

Photo of Rincon Operations courtesy Sheri Pemberton, Commission staff.

Sep 12, 2019 | Oil and Gas

Project Status

The Commission and its contractors have completed 96 percent of onshore abandonments (26 of 27 wells, including two additional Hobson Fee wells) and 68 percent of offshore abandonments (34 of 50).

Anticipated project completion is before June 30, 2021.

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 has plugged and abandoned all production wells onshore wells and is actively plugging the offshore wells on Rincon Island. Each well is plugged by clearing and cementing the well bore to the surface elevation, consistent with regulatory standards. After each onshore well is plugged all well sites, including the cement well cellars and remnants, are 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, reduces costs and minimizes delay. The plug and abandonment of the Island wells started in the January 2019 and is anticipated to end in late 2020.

  • 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 2020.

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.

Previous Staff Reports

  • 02/27/2018 (92) – Consider delegating authority to the Executive Officer to enter into agreements necessary for access and operations on former State Oil and Gas Lease Nos. PRC 1466.1, PRC 145.1, and PRC 410.1, related to Rincon Island; and provide an update on the status of oil and gas decommissioning projects undertaken by the Commission, including the Becker well abandonment and remediation project and the decommissioning of facilities on former leases encompassing Platform Holly and Rincon Island, off Santa Barbara and Ventura counties
  • 11/29/2017 (71) – Consider the future disposition of State Oil and Gas Lease Nos. PRC 1466.1, PRC 410.1, and PRC 145.1, held by Rincon Island Limited Partnership and the suitability of proposals submitted on behalf of the bankruptcy estate of Rincon Island Limited Partnership for alternate operators to assume control of those leases
  • 08/17/2017 (77) – Staff report on the recent history of operational compliance by Rincon Island Limited Partnership; the status of ongoing chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings; and, an update on a settlement between the Commission and Atlantic Richfield Company, a prior lessee; State Oil and Gas Lease Nos. PRC 145.1, PRC 410.1, and PRC 1466.1, Ventura county
Aerial Footage of Rincon Island, Ventura County, California