The owners of a Price Canyon oil field want to add up to 350 new oil wells that could nearly double the amount of production.
If the proposal moves ahead, Plains Exploration and Production Co. (PXP) could increase daily oil production to 9,000 from 5,000 barrels on the property located about 3 miles northeast of Pismo Beach on both sides of Price Canyon Road.
On May 14, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a contract with Ventura-based Marine Research Specialists Inc. to prepare an environmental impact report for the proposed expansion.
PXP will cover the estimated $476,569 cost, of which $353,954 will pay for the environmental document and the rest would go toward meetings and hearings.
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The expansion would not include hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, which involves injecting water and chemicals under high pressure into oil-bearing deposits deep in the earth in order to crack the rock and release oil and natural gas.
PXP’s current operation includes up to 100 active wells, which produce about 1,000 barrels of oil a day. They are transported by truck — in seven daily trips — to the ConocoPhillips pump station in Santa Maria.
PXP officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
The county planning and building department conducted an initial study after PXP submitted its application for a permit to identify environmental impacts that need further analysis, senior planner John McKenzie said.
The study identified issues that could have potentially significant impacts, including noise, biological resources such as wildlife, air quality, aesthetics and traffic.
“In this case, we see there are some new visual impacts and we’re not sure at this point that those can be mitigated to less than significant,” McKenzie said. “We want to make sure that air quality and traffic issues are addressed.”
Portions of the existing oil field can be viewed from Price Canyon Road, mostly in the area of Ormonde Road.
Historically, construction of new wells has been limited to 37 a year. The addition of 350 new wells would take place over 10 years, according to the county’s initial study. The study can be viewed at www.slocounty.ca.gov/planning/environmental/EnvironmentalNotices/PXP.htm (click the “environmental” folder).
County officials said they are aware of initial discussions to build a pipeline to the area from the ConocoPhillips facility, which would greatly reduce the number of truck trips from the oil field.
However, no application to do so has been submitted.