South Ellwood Project

Photo credit: Commission staff

Platform Holly/Piers 421/Venoco Bankruptcy

Feb 22, 2024 | Oil and Gas

Current Status

The Commission recently removed the two enormous piers and caissons at Haskell’s Beach in the City of Goleta. These structures, built in the late 1920s as part of the Ellwood Oil Field, were the last oil piers in California. Please enjoy this video of the decommissioning work.

We are in the final stages of well plug and abandonment on platform Holly. Once that is done, we will start cutting and removing the 30 well conductors that link the platform wellheads to the seabed. We expect to complete that work by the end of this year. Once that is done, the platform will no longer be connected to the seabed, and there will be no possibility of producing oil or reactivating the platform again. Technical studies supporting the coming Environmental Impact Report are underway. Staff anticipates issuing a notice of preparation this Fall, which will initiate the CEQA process. The notice of preparation will be followed by a draft Environmental Impact Report for public review and comment, which is 8 expected in 2025. ExxonMobil will decommission platform Holly, at its expense, after the Commission certifies the Environmental Impact Report. More information is available in the Phase 2 agreement executed last October.


In April 2017, Venoco quitclaimed its interests in the South Ellwood Field leases, including Platform Holly and the Ellwood Beach pier leases near the City of Goleta. The quitclaims ended commercial oil and gas production in state waters in the Santa Barbara Channel and returned operational control of these assets to the Commission. California’s Coastal Sanctuary Act prohibits the Commission from issuing new offshore oil and gas leases.

The Commission selected Beacon West Energy Group, LLC as its contractor to operate and maintain Platform Holly and the Ellwood Onshore Facility. Beacon West, under the Commission’s oversight, began ensuring the security and safe daily operations and maintenance at Platform Holly and the Ellwood Onshore Facility in September 2017.

ExxonMobil, the successor in interest to the prior operator, Mobil Oil Corporation, and Venoco’s predecessor for these lease interests, agreed to fulfill its obligation to abandon the 30 wells on Platform Holly, seven of which were Venoco re-drilled wells and are state obligations, and the two near-shore wells on what was Oil & Gas Lease 421 in Goleta (Piers 421 wells).

The Piers 421 wells were successfully plugged and abandoned in 2019. Plug and abandonment work on Platform Holly began in October 2019, only to be halted in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and related physical distancing requirements. The Commission maintained 24-hour staffing at Platform Holly and the Ellwood Onshore Facility during the hiatus to ensure health and safety, given the dangerous amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas that is present in the wells until they are fully plugged and abandoned.

Public Meetings & Town Halls

Previous Staff Reports

  • 07/11/1997 (76) – Consider Approval of the Assignment of Undivided Interests in Oil and Gas Lease Nos. PRC 421.1, PRC 3120.1 and PRC 3242.1, and industrial leases PRC 3904.1 and PRC 5515.1, Santa Barbara County.
  • 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.
  • 10/19/2023 (63) – Consider authorization to execute the proposed Phase 2 Agreement by and between the California State Lands Commission and ExxonMobil Corporation in settlement of the responsibilities to undertake work on Platform Holly, offshore Goleta, Santa Barbara County, including platform hardening, caretaker inspections, and future decommissioning of Platform Holly.