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Signal Hill


Signal Hill, California, circ. 1924

California has had an amazing oil and natural gas history, in many ways as unique and colorful as Texas' oil history. California is where the largest onshore blowout in the history of the US oil industry occurred (Lakeview, in Midway/Sunset Field;1910), the worse offshore blowout in history for its environmental harm to an American coastline (Santa Barbara; 1969) and California was essentially where the profession of oil well firefighting, particularly the use of explosives to blow out fires (Kinley; 1913), was born. The Los Angles Basin has, to this day, producing wells in residential districts, behind shopping malls and large high-rise office buildings. Drilling rigs still quietly rotate to the right in urban areas around Los Angles hidden behind enclosed derricks that are painted like art work...even Beverly Hills is still actively being explored with new wells, drilled off new 3D seismic data.

One of the coolest early discoveries in California, and specifically in the Los Angles Basin, was in Signal Hill, south of Los Angles. Signal Hill was discovered in June of 1921 by Shell Oil along the Newport-Inglewood fault zone in fairly shallow Pilocene (Repetto) and Miocene (Puente) reservoirs that made war-horse wells. By 1923, two years after discovery, Signal Hill (Long Beach Field) peaked at 68,000,000 barrels of low gravity (14 degrees) "heavy" oil per year.

Well fire, Signal Hill, California, 1924. When wells came in unexpectedly they were often prone to catching fire and burning everyone else's rigs down in the nearby vicinity, not exactly the neighborly thing to do.

Of particular historic significance regarding Signal Hill/Long Beach Field was the discovery of severe subsidence of the surface in the middle of the oil field beginning in the early 1940's, some four feet, in fact, near Long Beach Harbor, and over two feet in downtown Long Beach, all occurring in less than six years. To stabilize the subsidence, believed to have occurred from the massive amounts of oil and produced water extracted from shallow depths, the field was re-pressurized with ocean salt water beginning in the early 1950's and the subsidence ceased.

Today, Long Beach Field is mostly unitized and under water flood. The primary operator in the area is Signal Hill Petroleum Corp.; it operates approximately 300 producing wells that make something in the neighborhood of 15 BOPD each. Long Beach Field, including the Signal Hill area, has produced 1.16G BO since 1921.

Monument to Roughnecks; On Signal Hill Overlooking Long Beach Harbor; 2016

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