Oil Production in Kern County, Calif., Continues Decline

Kern County oil production continued its gradual decline in 2003, according to a new report from the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.

Production here totaled about 192 million barrels, according to the 2003 Annual Report, compared to 199 million barrels in 2002.

"It's just a continuation of that drop in production we've seen in the past," said Randy Adams, district manager for the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. "It's just a normal decline."

It's normal because the oil fields here are old. Most date to the turn of the last century. As oil fields mature, they naturally produce less oil and gas.

The decline is expected to continue unless some kind of new technology surfaces and reverses the trend, which is what steam injection accomplished several decades ago.

The most recent fall-off in production might seem surprising given the healthy status of crude oil prices, which has led to brisk activity in the field.

However, Adams said the increase in drilling last year was not enough to offset the natural decline in production. He said if the industry experiences several years of ramped-up prices, oil production might follow suit.

On the plus side, Assistant Kern County Assessor Tony Ansolabehere said although oil production has been going down, "the price of oil is so much higher right now that we're actually seeing increases in the assessed value of oil in Kern County. The assessed value went up quite a bit this year."

The total went up $1.1 billion, from $11.5 billion in 2003 to $12.6 billion this year.

The money goes toward a myriad of county services and schools.

The Division of Oil and Gas released a portion of its 2003 Annual Report, including county figures, a list of delinquent assessments and penalties and a financial statement, this week. The information is posted on the division's Web site.

The full 2003 report will be released by the end of the year.

The data released this week includes the following information on Kern County and California for 2003: Number of producing oil wells Kern County: 37,254. That's a slight increase over 36,955 in 2002. California: 46,948, compared to 46,734 in 2002.

Number of shut-in oil wells Kern County: 15,466, down a bit from 16,222 in 2002.

California: 23,594. 2002: 24,600.

Number of producing natural gas wells Kern County: 149. That's just seven more than the previous year.

California: 1,237, compared to 1,221 in 2002.

Total natural gas production Kern County: 193 billion cubic feet, down from 209 billion cubic feet in 2002.

California: 305 billion cubic feet, compared to 322 billion cubic feet.