According to California officials, Chevron was responsible for spilling nearly 800,000 gallons of oil and water into a Kern County canyon near Bakersfield. Although Chevron has begun cleaning up the affected areas, an investigation continues into what initially caused the seep in May and has continued until last week.
Chevron recently announced that 794,000 gallons of oil and water have leaked out of the ground where it uses steam injection to extract oil in the large Cymric Oil Field about 35 miles west of Bakersfield. According to Chevron, approximately 70% of the fluid is water, meaning about 240,000 gallons of the spilled mixture is oil.
Chevron spokeswoman Veronica Flores-Paniagua recently revealed that the seepage began in May and has been intermittently leaking until last Tuesday. Unlike fracking, the oil company uses steam to soften the thick crude so it can flow more readily from the ground.
According to Steve Gonzalez, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, there is “no active waterway” that is nearby and most of the spill flowed into a dry stream bed. The state issued Chevron a notice of violation ordering the company to stop steam injections for 600 feet around the area where the seep has occurred.
Bearing the expense of the cleanup, Chevron has hired contractors to clean the spill. Officials have delayed the investigation into what caused the spill due to possible dangerous fumes from the oil or sinkholes that could trap workers or heavy equipment.
In 2015, Plains All American Pipeline was responsible for spilling 140,000 gallons of crude oil in 2015 onto Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. In 2007, the container ship Cosco Busan leaked nearly 54,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil into San Francisco Bay. Since May, Chevron has spilled more than 240,000 gallons of oil just outside of Bakersfield due to steam injections.