Technology

California Resources Corporation (CRC) is committed to using advanced technology to maximize low carbon intensity oil and natural gas production in a safe, environmentally responsible, and efficient manner. This technology helps to make CRC an industry leader in sustainable production.

The company invests in state-of-the-art equipment and tools to find, develop, produce, and deliver energy resources throughout the state. Technology plays an integral role in every phase of this process, from exploration to field development to operations management.

Advanced technologies contribute to top performance in areas including safety and environmental stewardship, geologic interpretation, oil and gas reservoir description and modeling, well drilling, facility construction, field automation, artificial lift, well and equipment maintenance, and fluid processing.

In a collaborative work environment, CRC engineers and geoscientists combine expertise and ingenuity with cutting-edge technology to achieve the results that help define our success and advance a sustainable energy future in California.

Production Methods

Production of oil and natural gas requires energy to lift the fluids from the oil and gas reservoir deep underground to the surface. The reservoir's natural pressure provides much of this energy but is eventually supplemented by artificial lift equipment. As oil and gas is produced, the reservoir’s natural pressure is reduced. This pressure can be restored by injecting recycled water or gas to mobilize and displace additional oil and gas into production wells. Even after applying these improved oil recovery (IOR) techniques, a large quantity of oil and gas typically remains in the reservoir. Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques such as injection of steam or carbon dioxide can allow more of the oil in the reservoir to flow into production wells. By producing oil and natural gas with IOR and EOR techniques, we extend the lives of mature fields and maximize the efficient use of existing infrastructure and land surface.

We determine the development method to use based on geologic characteristics of the oil and gas reservoir and its reserves potential and expected returns. We seek to optimize our assets by progressively implementing primary recovery methods, which may include well stimulation and artificial lift techniques, IOR methods such as waterflooding and EOR methods like steamflooding, using both vertical and horizontal drilling. All of these techniques are proven technologies we have used extensively in California for many decades.

  • Primary Recovery

    Primary recovery is a reservoir drive mechanism that utilizes the natural flow of the oil and gas formation and is the first technique we use to develop a conventional reservoir. Our successful exploration program continues to provide us with primary recovery opportunities in new reservoirs or through extensions of existing fields. Our primary recovery programs create future opportunities to convert these reservoirs to waterfloods or steamfloods after their primary production phase.

  • Waterfloods

    Some of our fields have been partially produced and no longer have sufficient energy to drive oil to our producing wellbores. Waterflooding is a well understood process that has been used in California for over 50 years to re-introduce energy to the reservoir through water injection and to sweep oil to producing wellbores. This process has been known to increase recovery factors under primary recovery methods. Our waterflood operations have attractive margins and returns. These operations typically have low and predictable production declines and allow us to extend the productive life of major fields and significantly increase our incremental recovery after primary recovery. As a result, investments in waterfloods can yield attractive returns even in a low oil price environment.

  • Steamfloods

    Some of our fields contain heavy, thick oil. Steamfloods work by injecting steam into an oil and gas reservoir to heat the oil, which allows it to flow more easily to the producing wellbores. Steamflooding is a well understood process that has been used in California since the early 1960s. This process has been known to increase recovery factors under primary recovery methods. The steamflood process generally requires low capital investment with attractive margins and returns even in a low oil price environment. The economics of steamflooding are largely a function of the ratio between oil and natural gas prices. Since natural gas is typically used to generate steam, steamflooding offers favorable returns as long as the oil-to-gas price ratio is in excess of five. After drilling, these operations typically ramp up production over one to two years as the steam continues to influence the oil production, and then exhibit a plateau for several months, with a subsequent low, predictable production decline rate of 5 to 10 percent per year. This gradual decline allows us to extend the productive life of a viscous oil reservoir and significantly increase our incremental recovery after primary production.

Field Development

CRC’s capital allocation process takes into consideration various factors such as wellhead returns, expected cash flows relative to investments and payout metrics to prioritize investments.

Following are descriptions of key activities within the various functions.

  • Geophysics

    CRC has developed unique and proprietary stratigraphic and structural models of the subsurface geology and hydrocarbon potential in each of the basins where we operate. As a result of our long successful operating history, extensive seismic library and proprietary subsurface geologic models, we have tested and successfully implemented various exploration, drilling, completion and enhanced recovery technologies to increase recoveries and value from our portfolio.

  • Well Construction

    Exploring for and producing oil and natural gas requires drilling wells – often more than a mile deep – to bring oil and natural gas from the targeted underground formation to the surface. Once a well is drilled, steel pipe is placed in the well and cemented in place to isolate, support and protect the casing. Water-bearing zones are cased off, cemented and isolated from hydrocarbon-bearing zones to protect groundwater aquifers. The cemented pipe keeps the wellbore open for the life of the well and seals the formations that hold the oil and gas. Wells are completed in targeted pay zones in the formation allowing the oil and gas to flow into the well. Removable steel pipe, called tubing, is installed to carry the flow of oil and gas to the surface. The steel pipe, cement, tubing and valves at the surface contain and control the oil and gas.

  • Drilling

    CRC’s experienced drilling professionals use rigorous well design standards, state-of-the-art technologies and optimized rigs and equipment to deliver superior safety and drilling efficiency. CRC has a collaborative process with our drilling contractors and suppliers to select, commission and start up drilling rigs and to promote safety and reliable operations.

  • Well Stimulation

    Well stimulation is a process defined under California law to enable certain production wells to extract more oil and natural gas from the targeted underground formation. Well stimulation is only useful in certain geologic conditions, such as when the oil and gas formation consists of hard or tight rock with little natural permeability. The two primary types of well stimulation are hydraulic fracturing, which uses water, sand and select additives under pressure to create fractures, and acid matrix stimulation, which uses a low concentration solution of acid in water under lower pressure to dissolve minerals that have been deposited within the oil and gas formation.

    Well stimulation is used less commonly in California than in other states, and typically with less water and less energy. CRC has not used hydraulic fracturing since 2019. In many parts of New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania or Texas, by comparison, 100 percent of the wells undergo hydraulic fracturing.

    Where well stimulation is used in California, it typically occurs once in the targeted oil and gas bearing zone during the production well’s 40-year life. The actual stimulation process generally takes only a few hours, with a few days before and after the job for equipment set-up, testing, regulatory inspections, fluid recovery and demobilization before the well is put on production. Used safely and effectively by CRC’s operations and contractors for many years, hydraulic fracturing has been a routine practice in the oil and gas industry for seven decades.

  • Reservoir Management

    Reservoir conditions change as commingled oil, natural gas and water are extracted. To manage oil and gas reservoirs effectively, CRC’s multi-disciplinary teams collect and analyze data to optimize production and reserves. The data, much of it from automated systems, includes pressure, temperature, production and injection rates, artificial lift efficiency, well logs and downhole conditions. Continuous monitoring enables CRC’s professionals to make prompt adjustments that improve oil and natural gas production.

    CRC also uses performance prediction tools such as reservoir simulation and compares the results with actual performance. Based on the findings, opportunities are identified to fine-tune field development, enhanced oil recovery programs, artificial lift design and well servicing plans.

Operations

The operations team is at the frontline of CRC’s ESG initiatives that maximize the efficiency of production while minimizing the footprint of our operations. Following are some key examples that contribute to our performance.

  • Field Automation

    CRC applies the latest automation technology and surveillance software in conjunction with a centralized operating strategy to safely and efficiently operate wells, production facilities and gas plants across our extensive acreage. This combination of technology and operating philosophy promotes workplace health and safety, lowers operating costs, reduces downtime and variability, improves reliability, facilitates our extensive environmental monitoring, and extends the economic life of oil and gas fields.

    For example, at CRC’s Elk Hills Field in Kern County, the 40,000-square-foot Consolidated Control Facility serves as the nerve center for oil and natural gas production, as well as the plants and facilities operated by CRC or our Elk Hills Power, LLC joint venture. The facility contains a central control room where technicians monitor and control production and injection wells, processing facilities, gas compression, gas plants and enhanced oil recovery facilities around the clock.

  • Artificial Lift

    Most wells in California require additional energy to bring fluids to the surface as oil and gas reservoir pressure declines over time. A key solution is artificial lift, which provides energy to lift fluids to the surface and increase production from a well. Artificial lift is used on about 90 percent of CRC’s producing wells.

    CRC invests in new technologies and techniques to optimize and extend production from artificial lift. The primary methods of artificial lift in use at CRC are beam lift, electric submersible pump (ESP), gas lift and progressive cavity pump (PCP).

    Beam lift, the most common artificial lift method worldwide, consists of a beam unit (also called pumping unit or pump jack) on the surface, a downhole pump and rods that connect the two. Beam lift is the largest component of CRC's artificial lift, both in terms of number of wells and percentage of production, and CRC has pioneered new beam lift technologies at our Elk Hills Field. We operate central communication and analysis systems that monitor, control and optimize our beam units around the state.

    ESPs consist of an electric motor and pump suspended near the bottom of a wellbore and connected to a power supply at the surface. ESPs can lift liquid at very high rates and are the workhorses of our artificial lift fleet in terms of total fluid production.

    Gas lift injects gas into the fluid column in a wellbore, reducing the column's density to the point where reservoir pressure is sufficient to produce the fluid to the surface. This provides a powerful tool to optimize production in select fields.

    PCPs are in use at many CRC operations. These pumps typically are used in medium to shallow depth wells, including steamflood wells, and fill a gap in rate between beam pumps and ESPs.

  • Well Servicing

    Well servicing comprises the many activities performed on wells, such as initial completion (opening the wellbore to its initial producing zone), re-completion into additional producing zones, sand control (placing a gravel layer between the well and the oil and gas formation to prevent sand or silt from blocking flow into the well), well maintenance to remove or prevent the build-up of solids, scale or wax in or near the well, diagnostics, pump or equipment replacement or repairs. CRC most often accomplishes the work using well servicing rigs, although rigless operations with coiled tubing also are common.

    CRC has developed and deployed powerful tools and systems to achieve high performance in its well servicing operations. Well servicing trends and results are tracked to identify areas for improvement. In addition, software is integrated with other systems to aid in the scheduling of well servicing operations.

  • Asset Integrity Management

    Asset integrity management refers to CRC’s comprehensive maintenance, mechanical integrity, quality assurance and corrosion management programs that are used to help ensure that key systems and equipment remain safe, reliable and fit for service over their life cycle.

    Asset integrity is achieved by providing consistent programs for maintenance and mechanical integrity and comprises a combination of inspection, testing and maintenance requirements which include predictive, preventative and corrective processes. These individual programs cover maintenance of rotating equipment such as compressors, pumps, motors, generators and engines, and mechanical integrity of stationary equipment such as piping, pressure vessels, pipelines, electrical components, relief valves and atmospheric tanks.

    CRC uses computerized maintenance and inspection management systems to facilitate scheduling of routines, data management, trending and analysis.

  • Gas Processing

    CRC operates a state-of-the-art cryogenic gas processing plant at the Elk Hills Field in Kern County. The plant's capacity of 200 million cubic feet per day brings the total gas processing capacity at Elk Hills to more than 330 million cubic feet per day, bolstering Elk Hills' status as a regional gas hub for California.

  • Idle Wells

    Idle wells are valuable assets for which substantial resources have been invested in drilling, well construction and completion to produce from an oil and gas formation. Idle wells allow us to resume production from the original target formation, access additional hydrocarbon-bearing zones intersected by the well bore with recompletions, step out with directional drilling and reach additional oil and gas deposits, or implement enhanced recovery using recycled water, steam or carbon dioxide in future phases of development, all with smaller project footprints, lower energy use and emissions, and increased efficiency.

    Responsible stewardship of idle wells is a strength of CRC. A hallmark of our operations is our life-of-field planning to advance our fields through the decades-long value recovery chain from primary production to improved or enhanced oil recovery methods to produce more of the existing oil in place and maximize the efficient use of existing wells and facilities. Idle wells have an essential role in this process, since they enable us to access formations through existing well bores rather than drilling new wells – thereby reducing our surface footprint, energy use and emissions.

  • CRC is also investing in new technologies that have the potential to reuse idle wells for generating renewable energy, such as geothermal power, to advance the energy transition in California. In addition, as part of CRC’s robust Idle Well Management Program, we invest to permanently plug idle wells at a pace that exceeds state mandates.  

Our Products

The dedicated employees in CRC’s workforce operate critical and essential infrastructure. We are proud to provide safe and reliable oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids like propane, and electricity needed for stability in the energy supply and to promote our collective public health, safety and welfare. CRC is committed to helping our state and our diverse communities achieve and sustain a vibrant and inclusive future for generations to come.

Crude Oil

We generally do not transport, refine or process the oil we produce, and we sell almost all of our oil into the California refining markets. We believe these markets are among the most favorable in the U.S., contributing to higher realizations, because California imports a significant percentage of its oil requirements from outside the state – mostly from foreign countries that do not share California’s leading safety, labor, human rights and environmental standards – and there are no crude oil pipelines that link California to other oil-producing states.

Natural Gas Liquids

CRC’s Elk Hills Power, LLC joint venture operates the largest natural gas processing plant in California, which supplies customers with high quality NGLs from the Elk Hills Field.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a clean fuel that provides more than a third of California’s electricity generation, a highly efficient direct source of energy for heating and cooking in California homes, restaurants, hospitals, and a key feedstock in industrial applications.

We sell our natural gas production in the state and use intrastate transportation contracts to facilitate delivery of our natural gas to customers. CRC has invested in significant processing facilities at our key fields which supply utilities and industrial customers with natural gas. In addition, we have reduced our methane emissions and flaring by installing equipment like microturbines and natural gas compression to make beneficial use of natural gas in areas without access to natural gas pipelines.

Electricity

With a capacity of 550 megawatts (MW), the plant’s electricity powers Elk Hills and other nearby fields, and supplies excess power to a local utility and California’s electrical grid sufficient to supply more than 350,000 homes. CRC operates a 45 MW cogeneration facility that provides steam and electricity as needed to the Elk Hills Field, and THUMS Long Beach Company operates a 45 MW power generating facility that provides electricity to the Wilmington Field in Long Beach.

Contact Information

  • Natural Gas, Natural Gas Liquids and Electricity
    Parks Wesson
    Director, Gas, Power and NGL Marketing
  • Crude Oil
    Tim Covell
    Director, Crude Marketing