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Oil Wells

There was a mystery to be solved when oil started showing up on beaches from Carpinteria to the city of Santa Barbara.

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For decades, oil has been leaking into off-shore waters.

Reef Guardians Hawaii co-founder Harry Rabin discovered a trail of oil along the shores of Hammonds beach close to his home in 2017.

The task to find the source of the leaks was taken on by Heal the Ocean, with Rabin and Reef Guardians Hawaii resources leading the mission and working alongside Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, California State Lands Commission, and UC Santa Barbara to solve the problem and come up with a viable solution. 


As it turns out, the wells in Santa Barbara County were some of the first off-shore rigs in the world. Summerland Beach is an old offshore oil drilling site that was once home to over 400 wells. The most prolific wellhead, known as Northstar 815, was identified from a 100-year-old Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources document.

Finding the exact locations of these leaks and making the determination that these were indeed old wellheads vs. natural seeps took years of research, both above and below the ocean. 

Using Reef Guardians resources such as drones, ROV’s and their research vessel, he soon discovered and pinpointed multiple sources. From a good set of eyes for observations, to shovels, to the latest sophisticated technology in drones, ROV's, multibeam sonar, Lidar and improvised metal detection were all deployed to solve the mystery of where all the oil plumes were coming from. 

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Reef Guardians Hawaii Resources Used

  • Research Vessel

  • Drones

  • ROVs

  • Multi-beam Sonar

  • Lidar

  • Improvised Metal Detection

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Victory for the Environment

Northstar, along with another prolific leaking wellhead, Treadwell were both

successfully capped on Nov 29, 2020 after 3 weeks work!


The story here is a victory for the environment,

finally putting an end to the flow of multiple barrels per day into our ocean and beaches. 

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Funds for all the research were made available from the McNeely Trust Silo,

thanks to Nora McNeely-Hurley, who has been an advocate and supporter

for the work done by both Reef Guardians and Heal the Ocean.

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