Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center
Sources, Transportation, and Fate of Natural Oil and Gas Seepages
Tar and oil residues are common on California beaches, especially in southern California where natural oil seeps are present. Baseline information on tar and oil accumulations from natural seepage and spills is sought in order to manage the offshore production of oil and gas. The Minerals Management Service and the County of Santa Barbara have funded the USGS organic geochemistry team in Menlo Park, California to provide geochemical information that can be used to distinguish between sources of tar from natural seeps of from man-made spill. Baseline tar accumulation on beaches is an important management tool to assess the environmental impact of natural oil seepage in contrast to possible oil spills or illegal dumping at sea. Tar accumulation on specific beaches is monitored on a periodic basis providing details of tar composition, amount, and possible transport pathways as they vary with time.
USGS seeps page
Offshore southern California within the area between Point Arguello and Ventura
Figure caption, at right: Tar-lined blowhole at Carrington Point, north side of Santa Rosa Island in the Santa Barbara Channel off southern California.
The major goal of this project is to establish the geologic setting, source(s), and ultimate dispersal of natural oil and gas seeps in the offshore southern California within the area between Point Arguello and Ventura. The surveys will focus on likely areas of hydrocarbon seepage which are known to occur over the Pt. Arguello oil field, and the area near Santa Barbara where huge amounts of offshore oil seepage occur. Objectives in reaching this goal are to:
The Minerals Management Service has awarded the USGS funds over a 5 year period to conduct this program with the understanding that the USGS and our partners, will provide salary for our respective personnel. Below is a detailed workplan for years one to five.
In order to address the temporal variations in oil deposits, a sample set will be collected bi-yearly during years one and two at established stations located next to intertidal biological monitoring stations previously established by MMS. We hope to coordinate oil residue collections with MMS and the County of Santa Barbara. In addition we intend to work with, and have previously worked with Bill Castle of the California Department of Fish and Game who has developed a chemical fingerprint library in the vicinity of our proposed study area. We will also integrate the new geochemical information from southern California with our current database which contains data on tar residues from a broader extent of the California coast.Top
Tar Balls Washed Onto Central California Beaches by Storms http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2007/05/research2.html
Mapping the Sea Floor Off Santa Barbara, California http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2006/09/fieldwork2.html
Mapping Benthic Habitat Around Oil Platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, California http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2004/11/fieldwork3.html
Report on Hazards Offshore California's Ventura County Coast Compiled in Response to Congressional Request http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2004/11/pubs.html
Natural Tar Seeps in the Santa Maria Basin and Western Santa Barbara Channel Workshop, November 2004 http://www.mms.gov/omm/pacific/offshore/ROTAC/041102-ROTAC.htm
Survey of Offshore Hazards in Southern California http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2002/08/index.html
Beginning the Search for Offshore Oil Seeps Near Point Conception, California http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2001/09/fieldwork2.html
Ecology of Oil Seeps in Central California http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2001/05/
Ubiquitous Coastal-Tar Residues on Santa Rosa Island, Offshore Southern California http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2001/01/fieldwork.html
Committee on Oil in the Sea: Inputs, Fates, and Effects (including Kvenvolden, K.A.), 2003, Oil in the Sea III-Input, Fates, and Effects: The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 265 pp.
Dartnell, P., Cochrane, G., and Dunaway, M.E., 2005, Multibeam Bathymetry and Backscatter Data: Northeastern Channel Islands Region, Southern California: USGS Open-File Report 2005-1153
Dougherty, Jennifer A., Lorenson, Thomas D., Hostettler, Frances D., Rosenbauer, Robert J., 2003, Preliminary Assessment of Beach Tar Sources Along the Santa Barbara County Coastline; Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 35, No. 6, September 2003, p. 243.
Hostettler, F.D., Rosenbauer, R.J., Lorenson, T.D., and Dougherty, J.A., 2004, Geochemical characterization of tarballs on beaches along the California coast. Part I - Shallow seepage impacting the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel: Organic Geochemistry v. 35 p. 725-746. [PDF (0.5 MB)]
Hostettler, F.D., and Kvenvolden, K.A., 2002, Alkylcyclohexanes in environmental geochemistry: Proceedings, Proceedings of the 25th Arctic and Marine Oilspill Program (AMOP) Technical Seminar, Environment Canada, v. 1, p. 489-502.
Hostettler, F.D., and Kvenvolden, K.A., 2002, Alkylcyclohexanes in environmental geochemistry: Environmental Forensics, v. 3, p. 293-301.
Hostettler, F.D., and Kvenvolden, K.A., 2002, Forensic implications of spilled oil biodegradation in anaerobic environments: Abstracts with Programs, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, v. 34. n. 6, p. 289.
Kvenvolden, K.A., and Cooper, C.K., 2003, Estimates of the rates at which crude oil seeps naturally into the oceans: American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Annual Convention, Official Program, v. 12, p. A97.
Kvenvolden, K.A., and Cooper, C.K., 2003, Natural seepage of crude oil into the marine environment: GeoMarine Letters, v. 23, p. 140-146 [PDF (0.3 MB)]
Kvenvolden, K.A., and Hostettler, F.D., 2003, Geochemistry of coastal tarballs in southern California-A tribute to I.R. Kaplan: Kaplan Volume, The Geochemical Society, Director's approval 05/03, 27 p.
Kvenvolden, K.A., and Cooper, C.K., 2002, Revised assessment of the rate at which crude oil seeps naturally into the ocean: AAPG Hedberg Research Conference, Near-Surface Hydrocarbon Migration: Mechanisms and Seepage Rates, April 7-9, 2002, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Addendum to Abstract Book, 2 p.
Kvenvolden, K.A., Hostettler, F.D., Lorenson, T.D., and Rosenbauer, R.J., 2002, Natural oil seeps and coastal tar in California-An extension of the Kaplan Legacy: Abstracts with Programs, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, v. 34. n. 6, p. 219.
Kvenvolden, K.A., Hostettler, F.D., Rosenbauer, R.J., and Lorenson, T.D., 2002, Geochemistry of coastal tar residues as tracers of their natural or human origin: Abstract Book, 7th International Conference on Gas in Marine Sediments, Baku, Azerbaijan, Nafta Press, p. 98.
Kvenvolden, K.A., Lorenson, T.D., Rosenbauer, R.J., and Hostettler, F.D., 2002, Hydrocarbon residues on the California coastline: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Symposium, Sanctuary Currents 2002, New Technologies: Revealing the Secrets of the Sea. March 9, 2002, California State University, Monterey Bay, California, p. 19.
Kvenvolden, K.A., Rosenbauer, R.J., Hostettler, F.D., and Lorenson, T.D., 2002, Application of organic geochemistry to coastal tar residues from Central California: In Ernst, W.G. (ed.), Frontiers in Geochemistry: Organic, Solution, and Ore Deposit Geochemistry, Konrad Krauskopf V. 2, International Book Series, V. 6, Bellwether Publishing, Ltd. For the Geological Society of America, p. 5-18.
Kvenvolden, K.A., Kolak, J.J., Hostettler, F.D., Rosenbauer, R.J., and Lorenson, T.D., 2001, Coastal tar residues of the state of California, USA: 20th International Meeting on Organic Geochemistry, Abstracts Volume 2, p. 270-271.
Kvenvolden, K.A., Rosenbauer, R.J., Hostettler, F.D., and Lorenson, T.D., 2000, Application of organic geochemistry to coastal tar residues from Central California: International Geology Review, v. 12, p. 1-14.
Kvenvolden, K.A., Rosenbauer, R.J., Hostettler, F.D., and Lorenson, T.D., 2000, Coastal tar residues on the shoreline of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Symposium, Sanctuary Currents 2000, Causes of Ecosystem Change: Natural or Human?, p. 25.
Lorenson, Thomas D., Jennifer A. Dougherty, William Ussler III, Charles K. Paull, 2003, Cruise Summary for P-1-02-SC: Acoustic Imaging of Natural Oil and Gas Seeps in Measurement of Dissolved Methane Concentration in Coastal Waters Near Pt. Conception, California USGS Open-File Report 03-122, 86pp.
Lorenson, T.D., Hostettler, F.D., Dougherty, J.A., Rosenbauer, R.J., Peters, K.E., and Dunaway, M., 2006 Overview of Natural Oil Seepage in the Santa Barbara Channel and Southern Santa Maria Basin, Southern California. California and the World Ocean 2006, Book of Abstracts, p. 153-154.
Lorenson, T.D., Hostettler, F.D., Peters, K.E., Dougherty, J.A., Rosenbauer, R.J., and Helix, M., 2007, Natural oil seepage in southern California: Occurrence, sources, and ecology: in Petrotech 2007 Proceedings CD-ROM. 6p.
Lorenson, T.D, Hostettler, F.D., Rosenbauer, R.J., Peters, K.E., Kvenvolden, K.A., Dougherty, J.A., Gutmacher, C.E., Wong, F.L., and Normark, W.R., 2009, Natural offshore seepage and related tarball accumulation on the California coastline; Santa Barbara Channel and the southern Santa Maria Basin; source identification and inventory: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1225 and MMS (BOEM) report 2009-030, 116 p. and spreadsheets, http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2009/1225/
Lorenson, T.D., Leifer, I., Wong, F.L., Rosenbauer, R.J., Campbell, P.L., Lam, A., Hostettler, F.D., Greinert, J., Finlayson, D.P., Bradley, E.S., and Luyendyk, B.P., 2011, Biomarker chemistry and flux quantification methods for natural petroleum seeps and produced oils, offshore southern California: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5210, 45 p., 4 data files and OCS Study BOEM 2011–016, http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2011/5210/
Lorenson, Thomas, William Ussler III, Jennifer Dougherty, Charles Paull, Siddhartha Mitra, Rendy Keaten, Keith Kvenvolden, Ira Leifer, and John Harris, 2003 Dissolved Methane Concentrations Adjacent to Natural Oil and Gas Seeps off Point Conception, California, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, 2003 Aquatic Sciences Meeting, Salt Lake City, UT, Abstract book, p.88.
Normark, W. R., C. E. Gutmacher, and R. Sliter, 2005, Natural hydrocarbon seeps on the inner shelf off Pt. Conception and western Santa Barbara Channel, California Geol. Soc. Amer. Cordilleran Section/Pacific Section American Association of Petroleum Geologists Meeting, San Jose, Official Program, p. 96-97.
Normark, William R.; Fisher, Michael A.; Gutmacher, Christina E.; Sliter, Ray; Hibbeler, Lori; Feingold, Beth; Reid, Jane A., 2003, Cruise Report for A1-02-SC: Southern California CABRILLO project, Earthquake Hazards Task: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-110
Peters, K.E., Hostettler, F.D., Lorenson, T.D. and Rosenbauer, R.J., 2007, Chemometrics Identifies Families of Crude Oils, Seep Oils and Stranded Tarballs in Coastal California. AAPG Annual Meeting, Long Beach, California. v. 91 (digital). 1p.
Santa Barbara County, Planning and Development Department, Energy Division, and U.S. Geological Survey, Western Coastal and Marine Geology Team [Lorenson, T.D., Dougherty, J.A., Hostettler, F.D., and Rosenbauer, R.J.], Menlo Park, CA, 2004, Natural seep inventory final report
Santa Barbara County, Planning and Development Department, Energy Division, and U.S. Geological Survey, Western Coastal and Marine Geology Team [Lorenson, T.D., Dougherty, J.A., Hostettler, F.D., and Rosenbauer, R.J.], Menlo Park, CA, 2004, Natural seep project summary