Long Beach Oil Field

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{{#badges: FrackSwarm|Navbar-fracking}} The Long Beach Oil Field is a large oil field underneath the cities of Long Beach and Signal Hill, California, in the United States. Discovered in 1921, the field was enormously productive in the 1920s, with hundreds of oil derricks covering Signal Hill and adjacent parts of Long Beach; largely due to the huge output of this field, the Los Angeles Basin produced one-fifth of the nation's oil supply during the early 1920s. In 1923 alone the field produced over 68 million barrels of oil, and in barrels produced by surface area, the field was the world's largest.[1][2][3]

The field is eighth-largest by cumulative production in California, and although now largely depleted, still officially retains around 5 million barrels of recoverable oil out of its original 950 million. 294 wells remained in operation as of the beginning of 2008, and in 2008 the field reported production of over 1.5 million barrels of oil.[4] The field is currently run entirely by small independent oil companies, with the largest operator in 2009 being Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc.[5][6]

Long Beach, California has employed fracking for the past 17 years. The city's Department of Gas and Oil estimates less than 10 percent of wells involve the process. Long Beach averages five 'fracs' per year, all under the oversight of the state's Department of Oil and Gas. Additionally no contamination has been detected in local groundwater supplies, which produce about 60 percent of Long Beach's drinking water. This oil is being produced in the Wilmington field, near the Long Beach Oil Field.[7]

Signal Hill, which is completely surrounded by the city of Long Beach, employs the practice of fracking. Aside from operating drilling sites within Signal Hill proper, the company Signal Hill Petroleum in June 2013 had obtained permits in seven Orange County cities to conduct a geophysical survey that could help identify new oil reserves.[8]


In the 1920s there were few regulations on well spacing, and Signal Hill sold narrow town lots which were quickly bought up by would-be oil millionaires, who put in wells that were virtually touching each other; in spite of this close spacing, most were profitable, although they drained the field quickly. Signal Hill became known as "Porcupine Hill" for its prickly appearance at a distance, covered with hundreds of wooden oil derricks (the low "nodding-donkey" pumpjack was yet to be invented). By 1923 the production from the field had become so abundant that oil from the Los Angeles Basin accounted for fully twenty percent of the entire world output.[9] 1923 was the peak year for production from the field, and that also coincided with the peak for production from the entire Los Angeles basin; in spite of large discoveries in the 1930s, including the nearby Wilmington field, fourth-largest in the nation, production never again attained that level. The price of oil had risen steeply, from $0.64/barrel in 1916 to $3.07 in 1920, largely because of the enormous increase in the number of automobiles on the roads – during that time the number of cars had tripled.[10]

Production slowed during the Great Depression, as the price of oil dropped with the demand, and the discovery of huge new fields not only in the Los Angeles Basin, but in Oklahoma and Texas, put a glut of petroleum on the market. By 1950 the field was third in the United States in overall output, with a cumulative production of 750 million barrels of oil. Then production began to decline as the wells became depleted, marking a turn toward enhanced oil recovery.[11]

In the 1980s and 1990s, Barto Enterprises, the ancestor of Signal Hill Petroleum, acquired many of the local assets of the large oil companies – ARCO, Shell, Mobil, Texaco, and others – that had previously been major operators on the Long Beach field (most of the majors moved out of the Los Angeles Basin during that time, seeking easier opportunities elsewhere; most present-day operators are small to medium-sized independents). As of 2009, Signal Hill Petroleum operated more than 90% of the wells on the field, as well as several enhanced oil recovery projects.[12]



  1. Schmitt, R. J., Dugan, J. E., and M. R. Adamson. "Industrial Activity and Its Socioeconomic Impacts: Oil and Three Coastal California Counties." MMS OCS Study 2002-049. Coastal Research Center, Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, California. MMS Cooperative Agreement Number 14-35-01-00-CA-31603. 244 pages; p. 47.
  2. Oil and Gas Production: History in California (PDF). California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). California Department of Conservation. Retrieved on December 7, 2009.
  3. Long Beach EIR, p. 4.4-6
  4. 2008 Preliminary Report of California Oil and Gas Production Statistics (PDF). California Department of Conservation (January 2009). Retrieved on December 7, 2009.
  5. Oil and Gas Statistics: 2007 Annual Report (PDF). California Department of Conservation (December 31, 2007). Retrieved on August 25, 2009.
  6. California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources well and field query page
  7. "Cal Assembly bill seeks to force disclosure of chemicals used in drilling wells" Kristopher Hanson, Press-Telegram, June 28, 2011.
  8. "Is Fracking in Orange County's Future?" Adam Elmahrek, Voice of OC, June 3, 2013.
  9. Schmitt, et al. p. 48
  10. (1998) California Oil and Gas Fields. Sacramento: California Department of Conservation (DOGGR). 
  11. (1998) California Oil and Gas Fields. Sacramento: California Department of Conservation (DOGGR). 
  12. Signal Hill Petroleum web site

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Wikipedia also has an article on Long Beach Oil Field. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.