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Santa Barbara Well blowout; Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California | 1969-Jan-28

Initial Notification: On January 28, 1969, the Union Oil Company well number 21 under Platform A, located 5.5 miles southeast of Santa Barbara, California, in the Dos Cuadras field, experienced a blowout while drill bits were being changed. A massive mixture of oil, gas, and drilling mud roared up the drill casing and spewed out onto the platform. Well A-21 was capped on February 7 with 13,000 barrels of heavy drilling mud. Oil continued to vent from natural faults several hundred yards from the platform, in tract 4042 between the coast and a chain of islands. The faults released a total of 100,000 barrels of oil until December 1969. A record-breaking storm immediately before the incident contributed to the large amount of oiled debris that needed to be collected as part of the spill response. On February 2, the National Pollution Contingency Plan, instituted by President Johnson in 1968, went into effect for the first time. The Federal Water Pollution Control Administration was on-scene to monitor the well-killing process and cleanup. Red Adair was brought in to provide expertise capping the well. To aid in predicting the slick movement, the National Weather Service set up a local station to monitor winds and tides. Weather during the cleanup was moderate except for a storm on February 4 and 5 that temporarily halted cleanup by damaging booms that were protecting harbors and marinas. The majority of the cleanup was completed within 45 days. Commercial fishing was completely closed in the area from February until April. Although the environmental effects of the spill were relatively minimal, economic effects were extensive due to loss of fishing income, loss of recreational facilities, and damage to personal property. USCG district 11.

Incident Details
Primary threat:Oil
Products of concern:California crude oil
Total amount at risk of spill: 4,200,000 gallons
Latitude (approximate): 34° 10.00′ North
Longitude (approximate): 119° 45.00′ West
On-Water Recovery: Unknown/Not applicable
Shoreline Cleanup: Unknown/Not applicable
Dispersants: Applied
In-Situ Burn: Unknown/Not applicable
Bioremediation: Unknown/Not applicable