Discovering Seeps

In partnership with California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI), we are flying drones over public lands in Upper Ojai to find, map, and measure air emissions from oil seeps that were ignited during the 2017 Thomas fire and still smoldering in 2019.

In the early days of oil production in Ventura County, natural oil seeps were primary sources of extraction.  When oil started being used for energy, prospectors drilled tunnels through the side of mountains for oil to flow down through the tunnels and into barrels. At these seeps, petroleum leaks out of the ground and to the surface. Many of these seeps and tunnels still exist today.

When the Thomas Fire ravaged Ventura County in 2017, it also ignited oil seeps, resulting in underground fires that may still be burning. Because of high heat levels and the Ojai Valley’s rough terrain, these burning seeps are difficult to reach and hard to find. Flying drones through the rough landscape allows us to see what we otherwise couldn’t. CFROG and our partners at CSUCI are using cutting edge technology to find these smoldering seeps and to measure the air pollution they release. Drones are affixed with air monitors that detect gas emissions and with infrared sensors to pick up on heat from large distances.

If you think you smell sulfur, which smells a bit like rotten eggs, in Upper Ojai, you may be near an oil seep! Please contact us if you’d like us to investigate further.

All drone flights are conducted by pilots licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration from public lands or private land only with the written consent of the property owner. We follow stringent measures to ensure the privacy of people in and around the flight paths.