Los Angeles Oil Production History

The Los Angeles City oil field was discovered in 1893 by a gold prospector named Edward L. Doheny and his business partner Charles A. Canfield. The first well in the field (the “discovery well”) was located between Beverly Boulevard and Colton Avenue, near present-day Dodger Stadium. The site is now a parking lot for a swimming pool. It set off an oil boom by producing 45 barrels a day. The field had 500 wells within four years and led the state in production. In 1895, the Los Angeles City field produced approximately 750,000 of the 1.2 million barrels produced in the state. At one point, over-production became so acute that the price of oil plummeted.

By 1930, California produced a quarter of the world’s oil, and the growth of Los Angeles – from a population of 50,000 in the 1890s to more than a million in 1930 – mirrored the growth of the industry. Beverly Hills, Venice and Huntington Beach were built atop former oil fields. In many locations, oil production continues amidst homes and business. Some oil companies have concealed their operations, covering up oil wells with facades (such as the well-known brightly painted derrick at Beverly Hills High School) and abating noise and odor issues to the extent possible. Except for Wilmington field, all the large oil fields in the Los Angeles area were discovered between 1920 and 1930. These include Huntington Beach in 1920, Long Beach and Santa Fe Springs in 1921, Dominguez in 1923, and Inglewood in 1924. The Wilmington field – which stretches from San Pedro Bay through Long Beach and east of the Palos Verdes Peninsula — was discovered in 1932. It is the third largest field in the nation in terms of cumulative production. In 2013, the USGS estimated another 900 million barrels remain in the field. The artificial THUMS Islands in Long Beach Harbor are drilled into the Wilmington field. Los Angeles County is second only to Kern County in current California production, and California ranks third in the nation in crude oil production.