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    Bad Vibrations? Wrigley Homeowners Rocked & Riled By Firm's Tests Inducing Vibrations To Find Underground Oil; City Hall Suspends Permit For Now

    (January 12, 2006) -- Delivering a sternly-worded neighborhood complaint in the public comment period of the January 10 City Council meeting, the president of LB's Wrigley Association, Joan Greenwood, said she and other area homeowners were physically and emotionally shaken by tests that sent vibrations through the ground to find oil deposits and map related seismic areas, arranged by Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc.

    "This is a prime example of something that may have been the right thing to do but it was executed the wrong way," Ms. Greenwood said. She indicated Signal Hill Petroleum sent a representative to the Wrigley Association's January 9 meeting, which was also attended by LB Energy chief Chris Garner...and both apparently got an earful. Ms. Greenwood continued:

    Ms. Greenwood: ...Many of my neighbors were greatly disturbed...[W]hen they created those underground acoustical waves to look at the subsurface in their search for oil, which is associated with earthquake faults, my house vibrated. You could feel the vibration. It wasn't the rolling motion like an earthquake.

    We have land that is subject to subsidence, and as a result several homeowners had serious cracks and damage done to their house...What we had was four trucks pounding the earth...and each time they made that pound, your house vibrated. You heard every pane of glass in your home rattle. It frightened dogs. It frightened children. It frightened my husband. It frightened me...

    This was the wrong way of doing this, and I know why it was done this way. It was done this way 'cause it's easier to beg forgiveness than to get permission.

    We want this testing stopped...[I]t should be stopped until an engineering geologist and structural engineers have determined whether or not this testing can be safely conducted in a site-specific situation like Wrigley.

    Responding to Ms. Greenwood's testimony, City Manager Jerry Miller said:

    City Manager Miller: Staff also became concerned with regard to the reaction in the community and so we have asked the company doing the testing to cease and we have revoked their permits and don't expect those tests to start up anytime soon...

    City Manager Miller also indicated city staff may report to the Council at its January 17 meeting.

    Signal Hill Petroleum referred our request for comment to Eric Campbell, Project Manager for the Long Beach Geophysical Study. He told at midday Jan. 11 that the firm is awaiting a call from City Hall to set up a meeting to discuss continuing the survey.

    Mr. Campbell acknowledged that the testing sends vibrations through the earth to find areas where there might be oil. He said that since 1922, about one billion barrels of oil had been removed from the area...with about two billion barrels in untapped reserves believed to remain underground where they can be removed.

    He indicated company-retained engineers offered to inspect structures inside and out prior to commencing operations and the firm had a telephone line answered seven days a week for 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with after-hours calls routed to his cell phone. He said the firm had logged-in all calls and comments and in the event there are damage claims of any significant nature, an engineering firm monitored particle wave motion in connection with its tests. "We are not capable of creating vibrations of more than about one on the Richter scale," Mr. Campbell said.

    Mr. Campbell said Long Beach and Signal Hill City Halls stand to receive a share of the royalties from removing oil found in the tests. The main mineral holder, Signal Hill Petroleum, would get the largest share...but if there were production, LB and SH City Halls could receive a share of the revenue via royalties, he said. "There won't be production and those two billion barrels of oil will remain an untapped domestic resource unless they can be mapped," Mr. Campbell said.

    He also said the company planned to share earthquake fault information gleaned from the testing with CSULB (with appropriate protections for proprietary aspects of the data). "The Newport-Inglewood fault and Wardlow fault structures are quite complex," Mr. Campbell said.

    Mr. Campbell said roughly 8,000 fliers were distributed along streets where sensing wires were placed. separately obtained a copy of one of the fliers distributed in a LB neighborhood. We post its text below:

    [begin text]

    The Long Beach Geophysical Study
    ("A Look Down Under")

    The Long Beach Geophysical Survey is being sponsored by Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc. This survey will use seismic technology to image the geophysical and earthquake faults in the greater Long Beach area. This data will enable scientists to better understand the geological mechanics of the region.

    The imaging process uses acoustic waves to penetrate the earth. The reflections of these acoustic waves are recorded and create an image of the geological layers and faults deep underground. The technology used is similar to the ultra-sound imaging in the medical industry.

    For this process, specialized trucks generate small acoustic waves. A large grid of specialized microphones called "geophones" pick up the resulting acoustic wave reflections. The geophones are about the size of a sprinkler head with a tip about the size of a golf tee. They are connected by a wire about the size of an outdoor electrical extension cord. The tip of the geophone is typically stuck in the ground or sometimes the geophone is placed on pavement and covered by a small sandbag. Pictures of these types of geophone placements are shown below.

    [photos omitted here]

    Specially trained technicians will install the geophones. If for any reason they are in the way of mowing or other work, just call the project office and a technician will be radio dispatched to move them.

    Operations for the survey will begin immediately in this neighborhood. If there are any questions, concerns or complaints, please contact the project office at [phone number omitted here]. You can also contact the City of Long Beach Department of Oil Properties at [phone number omitted here].

    Thanks in advance for your cooperation with this important project.

    The Long Beach Geophysical Survey

    LB Energy Director Garner told on January 11 that City Hall was likewise informed the testing would create little vibration...but after receiving multiple resident calls it appears the vibrations in some areas were more significantly felt and occurred for periods longer than initially indicated.

    Mr. Garner said the firm has done some tweaking to its equipment, reducing the vibration levels ("more like a big truck starting up" now) but City Hall has put things on hold. He indicated that as far as city staff is concerned the firm will have address multiple issues including vibration levels, noticing to neighborhoods, neighborhood phone banks for people who complain and a methodology to file damage claims if there are any.

    And City Hall is not pleased with cabling now draped along city streets to sense the vibrations, saying they look like "extension cords" and in some areas stretch from near Poly High School in central LB to California Heights north of the 405 freeway.

    On January 8, received an email from a reader who asked "What's this?" and sent photos snapped by her spouse in the area of Wardlow Rd. at Myrtle Ave.

    The reader and we later learned the wires and equipment are used to measure the induced vibrations.

    Oil tests, Jan. 8/06
    Photo credit: Bob Christian

    Oil testing Jan 8/06
    Photo credit: Bob Christian
    This is some of the equipment.

    The reader reported some wiring extends north up Atlantic Ave., and south over the 405 overpass with wires duct taped on the freeway offramps.

    Mr. Garner said the bottom line is city staff "has major issues with all this" and has revoked the permit...meaning the firm can either discuss the matter with city staff...or appeal staff's permit revocation to the City Council.

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