The Wildcatters, the Regulators and the Prize: Chronicles of the Cat Canyon Oil Field, Santa Barbara County, CA.
Wildcatters spend a lifetime developing the skills to find the next Prize; a large oil or gas reservoir. Regulators have a mandate to protect both the environment and public from real or potential threats. Thus, a field of play is set where a wildcatter drives towards developing a Prize, while regulators plays defense, wanting all potential future threats to be mitigated. In California, the ‘wildcatter’ of old must become the new Playmaker, and navigate the team to the prize. PetroRock set its sights on the prize of the Sisquoc Oil Sands in the Cat Canyon Field, Santa Barbara County, CA. These Pliocene heavy oil sands were steamed cyclically from 1965 to 1997 by Texaco and produced 4 million barrels of 8 API oil. Oil prices and the regulatory environment in the late 1990's prompted Texaco to abandon these leases. After a cursory look at the old Texaco production, PetroRock decided to ‘do what it takes’ to reactivate the field. That's when we learned about the Santa Barbara County Production Plan process. Impacts to air, tiger salamanders, ground water, ambient noise, visual impacts, traffic counts, and septic tanks, among other things, had to be addressed in a County application. How would PetroRock do this? To execute our plan we implemented a three step process. First, by understanding the geology and reservoir characteristics of the Sisquoc sands and compared this with questions posed to us by the Regulators. Second, we took our knowledge and met face to face with regulators and heard their concerns. This lost art of being in the ‘Room Where It Happens’ was crucial for our project. Finally, we changed our ‘team’ mindset and went from ‘Wildcatters versus Regulator’ to ‘we're all in this together’. As PetroRock has found, each day does not guarantee the ball will be moved down the field. But the modern wildcatter's knowledge can develop the playbook and keep the team on a successful quest for the prize.
AAPG Datapages/Search and Discovery Article #90266 © 2016 AAPG Pacific Section and Rocky Mountain Section Joint Meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada, October 2-5, 2016