MMS begins offshore California drilling study

The US Minerals Management Service is planning an Environmental Impact Statement for proposed exploratory drilling off Santa Barbara County, Calif. The study will examine proposals to drill five to eight wells on three leases in the Santa Maria Basin and in the western Santa Barbara Channel.


The US Minerals Management Service (MMS) said will begin work soon on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for proposed exploratory drilling off Santa Barbara County, Calif.

The EIS will identify and assess potential impacts and mitigation associated with proposals to drill five to eight delineation wells on three undeveloped units in the Santa Maria Basin and one undeveloped unit in the western Santa Barbara Channel.

As part of the EIS process, MMS will hold two public meetings in Santa Barbara County to provide information and receive comments. They will be at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Doubletree Inn in Santa Barbara and at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. The public also can comment via mail or e-mail.

MMS said a draft EIS will be published next summer. It will evaluate sequential drilling of five to eight delineation wells by a single mobile offshore drilling unit. They are multiple projects with multiple operators.

MMS said, �Based on past state and local concerns about multiple marine drilling vessels operating simultaneously, the MMS requested that the operators use a single marine drilling vessel to accomplish their drilling plans. Although the use of a single vessel will stretch drilling over a longer period, the sequencing of wells will provide for a more orderly approach to proposed drilling activities.

�Operators need the information from these wells to identify oil and gas characteristics, reservoir characteristics, and reservoir extent in order to determine the location, size, and type of facilities that may be required to develop the hydrocarbon resources.

�The proposed delineation drilling would occur on units where there have been discoveries of significant quantities of hydrocarbons, and where MMS believes that development could occur in the future.

�Therefore, the EIS will include a discussion of the potential impacts of the build-out of production facilities as part of the cumulative analysis. In addition, the cumulative analysis will cover other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable activities in the area of the proposed drilling.�

The agency stressed that no decisions have been made regarding formal exploration plans under which the delineation wells will be drilled or the development of the leases.

It previously approved the oil companies� exploration plans, which the California Coastal Commission (CCC) determined were consistent with the state�s coastal management plan. The plans proposed specific wells that have not been drilled.

MMS said 28 exploration wells have been drilled in the area where activities are proposed. But because a number of years have elapsed since the exploration plans were approved, it is requiring operators to revise them and submit them to the state for a consistency determination.

MMS said operators� subsequent development plans would be subjected to a National Environmental Policy Act analyses and a CCC review.

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