Oxy oil discovery could spark new interest in California's energy potential

Bruce Bullock of SMU's Maguire Energy Institute talks about the potential for extracting more oil from old wells.

By Ronald D. White

A few years ago, Occidental Petroleum Corp. executive Stephen I. Chazen sounded like a cryptologist out of a Dan Brown novel as he told investors that an oil bonanza awaited any outfit that could "crack the code" of California's seismically fractured underground.

Occidental's engineers may have done it.

The Westwood company revealed in July that it had found the equivalent of 150 million to 250 million barrels of oil and natural gas in an undisclosed part of Kern County using techniques that the oil company's executives would rather not talk about. It was California's biggest find in 35 years.

Some experts say it could herald a period of new exploration in California and the U.S. . . .

Bruce Bullock, executive director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said there has been renewed interest in many old oil regions long believed to have given up most or all of their crude.

"We're seeing quite a bit of activity," Bullock said. "A: They think they can find more oil; B: They think they can get it out of the ground."

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