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Country United States
Region Santa Maria Basin
Location Santa Barbara County, California
Offshore/onshore onshore
Operators Greka Energy, B.E. Conway Energy
Field history
Discovery 1934
Start of development 1934
Start of production 1934
Peak year 1945
Current production of oil 363 barrels per day (~18,100 t/a)
Year of current production of oil 2009
Current production of gas 0.715×10^6 cu ft/d (20.2×10^3 m3/d)
Year of current production of gas 2009
Estimated oil in place 1.033 million barrels (~1.409×10^5 t)
Estimated gas in place 0.994×10^9 cu ft (28.1×10^6 m3)
Producing formations Monterey, Sisquoc

The Santa Maria Valley Oil Field is an oil field in Santa Barbara County, California, largely underneath the city of Santa Maria and adjacent unincorporated Orcutt. Discovered in 1934, it is the 30th largest oil field in California, and retains approximately 1 million barrels of recoverable oil as of the beginning of 2010, less than one-half of one percent of the total produced in its lifetime. The largest operator on the field in 2012 was Greka Energy, which also owns an asphalt refinery on the field west of Santa Maria. 74 wells remain active, producing heavy oil. Much of the oil is converted into asphalt at the refinery.

Geographic setting[edit]

The field stretches the length of the Santa Maria Valley, which is the onshore portion of the Santa Maria Basin. It is approximately 18 miles long by four miles across at its widest, trending east-west with a turn to the southeast at its easternmost extent. The center of the productive area is approximately one and a half miles south of the center of the city of Santa Maria.[1]

The region has a Mediterranean climate, with mild rainy winters and cool, dry summers with frequent fog and low clouds from the Pacific Ocean ten miles to the west. Topography on the field varies from flat to gently rolling hills, particularly in the southeastern portion near the Solomon Hills. Since the 1950s the city of Santa Maria has expanded south and southwest into the central region of the field, covering former oil leases with urban and suburban development. Land uses within the field range from agricultural, in the east and west parts of the field, to light industrial, commercial, and residential. U.S. Highway 101 crosses the field from north to south. Some of Greka's oil pumps are visible from the highway south of Orcutt.

The field is divided into several widely-separated productive areas. The Main Area, discovered in 1934, is the largest and most central, and still the most productive. Farthest west, near the town of Guadalupe is the West Area (1953). In the southeast are the Clark Area (1968), Southeast Area (1941), and Bradley Area (1972). Northwest of Santa Maria is the tiny, abandoned North Area (1965). All the areas together total 8,850 acres.[2] Other oil fields adjacent to the Santa Maria Valley field include the Orcutt field to the south, the Cat Canyon field to the southeast, and the Guadalupe field to the northwest, across the river in San Luis Obispo County.


Overall structure and trap type(s). Overview, then break out by subregions, and then top to bottom. Oil and gas characteristics. Look for professional papers, doctoral dissertations, etc.

History, production, and operations[edit]

Detail of the Santa Maria oil field. Active wells are blue; plugged and abandoned wells are black. Wells in the central part of the field have mostly been abandoned as the City of Santa Maria has expanded into that area.

The field was a relatively late discovery in Santa Barbara County because the oil-bearing geologic structures are entirely hidden underneath the basin sediments, and have no surface topographic expression. Large nearby petroleum reservoirs such as the Orcutt and Cat Canyon fields are within anticlines that outcrop as ranges of hills. Easily visible, they were explored first.

Major companies, such as Unocal, Conoco, and Mobil divested their operations in the 1980s and early 1990s, as the costs to run onshore fields in California exceeded the profit they could make from them. Santa Maria was one of the areas particularly hard hit. Prices for the lower grades of crude, such as that produced at the Santa Maria field, fell to $6 per barrel in 1993.[3] As the major companies pulled out, smaller firms bought up their holdings. Housing developments replaced many of the old oil fields. In some cases homes were built on areas contaminated with oilfield waste, making remediation necessary; some houses had to be demolished for old oil sumps and other contaminated soils to be completely removed.[4][5]

Discovery well, economics, some of the major players. DOGGR annual reports, Highbeam, corporate 10-K filings

Detail of operators, how much produced, whether trucked or pipelined out, etc. Recent news and developments.

Greka Asphalt Refinery on Sinton Road, Santa Maria, adjacent to agricultural fields. Much of the oil produced on the field goes to this refinery.

Environmental compliance issues[edit]

If significant and reported.


  1. ^ Frame, 27
  2. ^ DOGGR, 476-483
  3. ^ The Oil Daily, December 20, 1993 [1]
  4. ^ White, Karen (April 27, 2001). "Several homes cleared of oil sump hazard". Santa Maria Times. Retrieved March 9, 2013. 
  5. ^ Rosenfeld, Paul E., Lydia Feng (2011). Risks of Hazardous Wastes. William Andrew. p. 63. ISBN 1437778437. 


Coordinates: 34°55′12″N 120°27′09″W / 34.9200°N 120.4525°W / 34.9200; -120.4525

Category:Santa Barbara County, California Category:Oil fields in California