An exploration of Ventura’s Oil with expert Dennis Christian

by Ross Williams

Walking along the beach as you stare across the Pacific towards the Channels islands you will find that amongst the masts of sailboats and white capped waves are a few carefully spaced oil platforms. Take a drive down the 33 towards Ojai and you’ll see oil rigs gently seesaw against a background of oak and chaparral covered hills. Oil helps our world run. From carpet to golf balls, plastic, life jackets and parachutes. And it has been a staple of our area’s economy for over one hundred years.

The Ventura Oil Field is 4,300 acres and it is the 10th largest oil field in California. At any given time there are approximately 50 million barrels of oil in reserve here in Ventura alone. We currently produce 12,000 barrels of oil a day and 7 mmcf (million cubic feet) of natural gas per day.

In order to gain a better understanding of the oil industry in our local area I reached out to Dennis Christian, Chief Operations Officer of Instrument Control Services.

How long have you been in the oil industry and what is your current role?

“I started working offshore back in 1975. On Platform Holly, which is currently in abandonment mode. I work primarily in the office; however, I do field assessment of our Valve Repair Crews on a weekly basis both here in Ventura and monthly in the SJV Area.”

Holly sits two miles offshore in Goleta, production on the oil platform stopped in 2015 when the company Venoco went bankrupt. The oil platforms are now owned by the state and are currently in the ongoing process of demolition.

How do we find oil?

“Discovery is primarily performed by geologists looking for shale, drilling a core that can be thousands of feet long, providing a snapshot of what lies beneath the surface, and currently utilizing seismic surveys.”

How do you know if a well or area has run dry of oil?

“Producing oil and gas wells are tested individually on a routine basis to gauge current production and the results of these well tests will dictate if additional trouble shooting is needed to address: * failed equipment or *potential zone depletions.”

The average depth of wells drilled in California is 4,100 feet, however in the offshore industry directional drilling provides the advantage of being able to reach multiple producing zones at combined length / depths of up to 26,000’±.

Do we frack in the area?

Also, what is the difference between traditional drilling and fracking? “The Federal Government has denied any fracking permits for any offshore platforms since 2019. Onshore, Ventura requires a permit that is evaluated on a case-by-case basis for potential environmental impact. Drilling is fairly self-explanatory while fracking is the process of injecting sand and chemicals into the production zone under high pressure in order to open the formation, allowing the crude oil to flow more freely for recovery by secondary means i.e. pumping.”Where do you see ongoing operations heading over the next few years?

The following is from “ExtractingFact, 11/21/2022,: According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California averaged 440,000 barrels of crude production per day in 2018, the final year of Governor Brown’s tenure. Since Governor Newsom was inaugurated in January 2019, the state’s production has averaged just 385,000 barrels per day. Production in recent months has fallen to as low as 330,000 barrels per day.

Governor Newsom’s energy policies have cost the state more than 75 million barrels of oil production – equivalent to over 42% of the emergency stockpile releases under President Biden.”

“Although this is from a “Pro-oil” publication, it is factual. I believe the goals of the current California and Federal administrations is to cease all oil and gas production in California eventually.  With the goal to phase out the sale of gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035, and California’s electrical grid is currently incapable of handling current demands. It will take a tremendous amount of upgrade and costs to ensure this is a successful plan.”

If there was one thing that you thought was essential to know about the oil industry what would that be?

“Oil production in California is by far the strictest environmentally regulated oil and gas industry on the planet (and rightly so). California produces oil and gas that has the least amount of impact to the environment than any other place.”

‘In one way or another we have a deeply interwoven relationship with oil that will continue long into the foreseeable future. Local livelihoods are tied to the oil industry, not to mention our daily lives, our environment and our politics. It’s a complicated relationship and as relationships do, they mature, they adapt, and they change with the world around them. A great relationship is one with good communication and a deep understanding of the other and that will allow us to make better overall choices for our future.”

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