Signal Hill Petroleum Acknowledges Larger Than Anticipated Ground Motion In Initial Vibration-Inducing Oil Testing, Says It Knows How To Resume Testing With Very Minimal Amount of Ground Motion
(January 17, 2006) -- At the January 17 City Council meeting, a Signal Hill Petroleum executive acknowledged that initial tests to find underground oil by sending vibration-inducing sound waves into the ground produced larger ground motion than anticipated in what he called isolated areas, took responsibility for the consequences, said his firm knows how to resume the testing with a "very minimal amount of ground motion"...and said it's preparing a letter to city management
on the matter.
A final version of the company's letter to city management wasn't presented at the Council meeting. LBReport.com was told by the project manager for the testing project that the letter wasn't finalized yet. As a result, it couldn't be reviewed by Councilmembers, the public or the press in time for discussion at the meeting...but after its eventual presentation to City Hall, city management could presumably cite it to justify reinstating a now-revoked permit for the vibration-inducing testing project (involving a large portion of LB, see map below) without further action by the Council.
The project manager for the testing project has promised LBReport.com a copy of the letter to city management once it's finalized...and when we get it, we'll post it.
Following city management's presentation of a city staff report on the initial testing and related issues, Signal Hill Petroleum VP Dave Slater came to the Council podium and said:
Mr. Slater: I stand before you very humbled. The early results on this project were not only disappointing to city staff, they were very disappointing to our company and very disturbing. This process is not new, it has been used in urban areas before and we did a fair amount of due diligence and brought in some of the best contractors in the country that do this type of work. The reality is that every community is different; the geology of every community is different...What was occurring [in] some isolated areas is we were having excessive ground motion when the vibrating trucks were operating, an amount of ground motion that was not anticipated and was not what we had told the city would be experienced while this project was in play.
We brought in [City Hall Gas & Oil Dept. Dir.] Chris Garner and his staff for a conference and very early on we mutually agreed we had to shut this project down. We did go back in a testing mode working with our technical people on the project and identified what the technical issues were that were causing the unanticipated ground motion and have a very solid plan and a very solid answer to how we can move the project ahead with a very minimal amount of ground motion which is what we originally promised.
But again, we are not very happy that we did not deliver on our promises of minimal impact and...for any of the houses that may have been damaged by the project, we are aggressively working to identify those issues and get them resolved as quickly as we can and we take full responsibility.
The company has the right to file a formal appeal with the City Council of staff's permit revocation...but indicated it plans to submit a letter to city management "outlining the issues that came up, expressing our dismay at the impact we caused in the community [and] our commitment to resolve and make whole anybody that has been impacted by the project to date [and] also outlining in detail the mitigation measures that we have done, working through with city staff and with the neighbors in the 7th district to date."
LB Gas & Oil Dept. Director Chris Garner opened the agenda item with a verbal presentation paralleling a written report that raised several issues about the initial tests. Mr. Garner then introduced Signal Hill Petroleum VP Slater...who was followed by public comment.
A 7th district Wrigley area resident said her home now has cracks in the ceiling and walls; another speaker said City Hall let a company damage peoples' homes in pursuit of profits, adding "the City Council by giving a permit is also culpable."
The testing first permitted (and for the moment revoked) by city management involves sending sets of four large diesel trucks into neighborhoods across much of LB (map below). The four trucks park end to end and extend metal pods that send computer-controlled sound waves into the ground. The sound waves create vibrations and reverberations that are recorded using a system of ground-mounted microphones (geophones) strung by wires through LB neighborhoods.
After creating vibrations at one location, the four trucks move up the street roughly 110 feet and repeat the process. The result produces sonograms (images created from reflected sound) that could indicate the presence of underground oil, potentially lucrative to the petroleum company as well as to City Hall. As previously reported by LBReport.com, under a 2004 agreement with Signal Hill Petroleum, LB City Hall stands to receive royalty revenue if the company finds oil and successfully extracts it.
As proposed by the company and initially approved by City Hall, the area in which the vibration-inducing testing would be conducted is within the area bounded in red in the map below:
The map's color coding is explained in in previous coverage, click here. For a larger, clearer pdf image, click map, but caveat: the pdf file is 5.2 MB and may require a longer than usual download time.
The company has pledged to share seismic data (that the oil-search tests will produce) with academics...and Stan Finney, Chairman of CSULB's Dept. of Geological Sciences, testified in favor of the "educational benefits" of the project. "We have one of the few Petroleum Geology programs...in the Cal State University system. We have a history of that. The geologists from Signal Hill Petroleum are our graduates. The geologists in the City of Long Beach division of Oil Properties are our graduates...We seem great educational benefit of this program. Signal Hill [Petroleum] and our department have shared information, have shared resources...and they're willing to make that data available to our students for graduate thesis research, for faculty research projects, because it is unique data. It's not often you can acquire this kind of data..." A UCSB Geology professor also testified in support of the testing on grounds it would produce useful seismic/earthquake related data.
The Council ultimately voted 8-0 (Gabelich absent due to illness) to receive and file city management's report...effectively leaving a decision on whether to reinstate the permit -- and if so on what terms -- to city management...presumably without further Council action.
Reinstating the permit could restart the tests which are planned to involve a large portion of LB.
Prior to the vote, Councilwoman Laura Richardson said bluntly she would vote against reinstating the permit if that had been the issue presented to her (which it wasn't; city management's report was agendized to "receive and file.") Other Councilmembers didn't flatly oppose resuming the testing and their comments focused mainly on stating concerns and raising issues.
At the January 10 Signal Hill City Council meeting, two items related to the testing were pulled off the agenda. SH City Manager Ken Farfsing told the SH Council that Signal Hill Petroleum had called and asked to table [remove from the agenda] an item in which the company was scheduled to make a presentation on its "geophysical survey." SH city staff had separately agendized its own report on the survey...which was also removed at the request of city management.
SH City Manager Farfsing added publicly, "Signal Hill Petroleum indicated that they were going to go back to the drawing board and probably do a much smaller seismic study." .
Parts of Lakewood are also indicated on the map...although it's unclear what the status of that city's stance on the testing is.
City Mgmt. Report Says Vibes To Find Underground Oil More Than City Hall Bargained For; Permit Revoked Pending Oil Co. Decision On Whether To Appeal
LB City Hall OK'd Vibration-Inducing Testing For Underground Oil In Neighborhoods Across Large Part of LB; We Post Color-Coded Map Showing Locations; City Hall Has Suspended Testing For Now
How LB City Hall Invited Vibration-Inducing Tests Into LB Neighborhoods To Find Underground Oil
Bad Vibrations? Wrigley Homeowners Rocked & Riled By Firm's Tests Inducing Vibrations To Find Underground Oil; City Hall Suspends Permit For Now
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