A barge off the coast of Summerland is at work capping the abandoned Treadwell oil well.
This is the second well to be capped under Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s Senate Bill 44, which was passed in 2017. The first was the Becker well in 2018.
In an interview with the News-Press, Sen. Jackson said the well capping project is going after the most “egregious” and “dangerous” abandoned wells first.
Under SB 44, $2 million per year for seven years is set aside to cap abandoned leaking oil wells.
“It’s very exciting to see the results of that effort and to finally cap those wells so that people can enjoy that beautiful beach without fear of health issues, or contamination as a result of that leakage,” the senator said.
Sen. Jackson made a post on Twitter on Wednesday celebrating the Treadwell capping, which included a picture of herself and Hillary Hauser with the barge out at sea in the background. Ms. Hauser serves as executive director of the nonprofit Heal the Ocean, which facilitated the well capping project moving forward by providing the necessary studies and consulting for the California State Lands Commission to approve of the project.
Ms. Hauser said that the Treadwell oil well is a particularly difficult one to cap because it lies hunkered in an earthquake vault, so it leaks whenever the earth shakes. To address this problem, the barge operated by InterAct is piledriving 92 feet into the sea floor to pump cement into the well. When the earth shakes, the material plugging the well will re-solidify.
According to a Heal the Ocean newsletter, many of the abandoned wells date back to the 1930s when wildcatters flocked to the Central Coast during the “oil rush” and poked holes wherever they could find oil.
Sen. Jackson remarked that these wildcatters didn’t get any permits when attempting to harvest oil or have any ground rules to follow when doing so. Many wildcatters also lacked sufficient resources to fund their oil harvesting and would plug them in makeshift ways.
“Rather than cap them, they would throw tree stumps or rags down the well and walk away,” she said.
She added that some of these abandoned wells were owned by companies that have since gone bankrupt.
Once the Treadwell oil well is capped, the barge will move on to another well.
“We want to do as much work as we can on this,” Ms. Hauser said. “After Treadwell, which is a big job, it will move in closer to shore and get the well that is NorthStar. And NorthStar is just a big mess.”
When the project receives another $2 million for well capping during the 2021 budget year, the next well expected to be plugged is Duquesne.