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Oil Wellheads

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 more than a century, oil has been leaking into off-shore waters.

Reef Guardians Hawaii co-founder Harry Rabin discovered a new trail of oil in 2017 shortly after State Lands had successfully abandoned (capped) the leaking Becker well in Summerland. He spotted fresh oil along the shores of Hammonds beach close to his home in 2017, over 3 miles West from Summerland.

The task to determine the source of the oil at Hammonds was led by  California State Lands Commission and UC Santa Barbara with Rabin joining in on the hunt using Reef Guardians drone assets. Dave Valentine was given a sample of the oil by Rabin and after tests were run to fingerprint the oil Dr. Valentine suggested it was similar to the oil found at theBecker well in Summerland! As it turned out the drone followed the trail of oil 3 miles East right to Summerland Beach!


Over 412 wells were drilled at Summerland in Santa Barbara County with over half of them in the ocean! Those offshore wells had major history as they were the first in the world to be drilled in the ocean beginning way back in 1897! One of the most prolific leaking wellheads, known as Northstar 815, was identified from a 100-year-old Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources document as the source that was sending all the oil West - NorthWest towards Hammonds beach and the Santa Barbara marina area.

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 drysuits/diving gear, drones, ROV’s and their research vessel, the wellhead was quickly discovered and pinpointed. As it turned out it was discovered that additional wellheads in the area were also discharging oil. State Lands came in with additional amazing resources to verify and plan for these newly discovered leaking wellheads to be abandoned.


So from some early observations, to the latest sophisticated technology such as, multibeam sonar, Lidar and improvised metal detection all were further deployed to solve the mystery of where all the oil plumes were coming from. 

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Reef Guardians Hawaii-California Resources deployed:

  • Research Vessel

  • Drones

  • ROVs

  • Diving gear

  • OTS full face masks with underwater to topside communications gear (donated by the late Mike deGruy!)

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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! Now in 2023 Treadwell 1 and 5 were also successfully abandoned thanks to the amazing work by California State Lands Commission and Acteon's subsidiary 2H Offshore . Heal the Ocean and RGH were also there during the 3 week operation to document and monitor the operations.


The story here is a victory for the environment,

and  collaborative efforts will continue. 

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Once again funds to support Reef Guardians work were made available from the Manitou, McNeely Trust Silo.

Special thanks to Michael & Nora McNeely-Hurley, who have been advocates and supporters

for both Reef Guardians and Heal the Ocean.

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