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Chevron fined $2.7m for multiple leaks in California

03 October 2019

US regulators fined Chevron $2.7 million on October 2 for illegally allowing uncontrolled oil spills at the Cymric Oil Field in Kern County, California. The spills occurred between May and July earlier this year when around 32,000 barrels of oil and water were released covering almost an acre of dry stream bed.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

The US Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) said that Chevron allowed four spills to occur where steam had been injected into the ground in order to extract oil. Acting Oil and Gas Supervisor Jason Marshall said that the spills caused a significant threat to both human health and the local environment.

Chevron has been working closely with regulators during the cleanup process which is now almost complete, according to the oil major.

The fine consists of $900,000 for failing to prevent surface expressions of oil and a further $1,832,991 for not complying with transport requirements for oil. The surface expressions are thought to be the result of Chevron's cyclic steam operations where steam is injected into an oil production well in order to dislodge viscous oil beneath the surface. Surface expressions have been outlawed since April 2019 under regulations brought in by the DOGGR. The regulations also prohibit the transportation of oil and water through open unlined channels and ditches.

Chevron is able to appeal the fine but is yet to decide if it will do so. 

In a statement, the company said: “Chevron takes very seriously its responsibility to operate safely and in a manner that is protective of public health, the communities where we operate, and the environment. It remains our operational goal to prevent seeps consistent with DOGGR’s updated regulations, and we continue to work closely with regulators to address any seeps that occur."

DOGGR said in a statement that Chevron had allowed oil from four spills to run downhill. On multiple occasions, regulators observed the use of “pumps, bins, and a vacuum truck to capture oil from the unlined channel and transport it for processing". Regulators added: “The oil flowing at the site was at a high temperature, producing steam, and could cause burns or ground instability, making the area around the surface expressions unsafe for humans.”

According to local daily newspaper The Desert Sun, Chevron had been issued with a number of Notices of Violations for previous surface expressions during the last year. These incidents were not considered as part of the October 2 fine.

Chevron is expected to sell the oil collected during the cleanup process which is estimated to be worth around $400,000.

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