Orange County, California has a long and storied relationship with the oil and gas industry. For many years, it was one of the largest oil-producing counties in the state, and it continues to be a major contributor to California's energy needs. At present, California consumes 1.8 million barrels of oil daily, with around a quarter of that produced in the state. The remainder is imported from both domestic and foreign sources.
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) units provide 2,200 MW of generating capacity to the Southern California region (Orange County and San Diego area). Natural gas was once thought of as a waste product, but it is now used for local domestic use. The county's largest urban oilfield was discovered in 1880 and is the 16th largest in California by cumulative production. Most of California's oil and gas production comes from vertical wells drilled in traditional oil and natural gas reservoirs (formations).
The Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) provides additional current and historical information and staff recommendations regarding the supply and demand of natural gas. Rock Zierman, executive director of the California Independent Petroleum Association, a trade association that represents 500 oil and gas producers, said the industry is strictly regulated by up to 18 government agencies. Regionally, about three-quarters of state oil and gas production is produced in the Central Valley. Unionized workers have fought for better standards, but activism has been limited in small industrial cities in Orange County.
These policies would also disproportionately affect the Central Valley, where most of the oil and gas industry resides. Nowadays, with rising real estate prices and less undeveloped land available, builders and government agencies have placed more homes, schools and new businesses on top of or between old oil fields. Used oil was once dumped into open wells where children and animals drowned, including in Huntington Beach Central Park. Eventually about a dozen oil fields were identified in the county.
Lease payments to several landlords and property taxes paid to the county are still major contributions of oil to the local economy. Pliocene steam floods began in 1973, a useful method for decreasing the viscosity of heavy oil and stimulating its flow to pumping wells. In conclusion, Orange County has a long history with the oil and gas industry that continues to this day. It is an important contributor to California's energy needs, providing lease payments to landlords as well as property taxes paid to the county.