Photos Show Destructive Impacts Of Steam Injection At Chevron Oil Well, California Officials Forced To Intervene

By Rainforest Action Network

Even after a sinkhole filled with poisonous gas, super-heated steam and hot water opened up beneath 54-year-old Robert David Taylor, killing the veteran oilfield worker, Chevron continued its use of steam injection at Well 20 near Taft, CA. Then a major eruption occurred just a few weeks later at the same well, finally prompting California officials to step in and order a stop to Chevron’s use of the dangerous technology.

According to, there was a “violent eruption” near Well 20 on August 5th. A report by the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) says that softball-sized rocks, fluid, steam and other materials shot out of the ground with such force that some rocks flew as far as 50-60 feet through the air. No one was hurt in this particular incident, but DOGGR officials ordered Chevron to stop using steam injection at Well 20 pending an investigation.

BakersfieldNow also got a look at photos of these “surface expressions,” an industry euphemism for when super-heated steam injected deep underground to loosen up oil finds its way to the surface. The August 5th eruption was not the only surface expression to have occurred since Taylor’s death on June 21st — there were two others on August 3rd. This is what has DOGGR officials so concerned:

“The only things of which we are certain are that this is a hazardous situation and that there is a correlation between [steam] injection, fracturing, and the surface expressions we’re seeing,” reads a statement issued August 12 from DOGGR supervisor Elena Miller.

In the photos, steam can be seen coming out of a hillside, and a large dark spot indicates where one of the eruptions occurred:

The blackened area indicates where steam, water, rocks, and other materials violently erupted from the ground.
Debris, including softball-sized rocks, flew as much as 50-60 feet through the air as a result of the eruption.

Robert David Taylor was checking on yet another surface expression when the ground opened up and swallowed him in June (Cal-OSHA is investigating Taylor’s death). There seems to be a pattern here, one that Chevron was all too content to ignore until DOGGR officials forced the company to pay attention. Which begs the question: How many other “surface expressions” have occurred at Well 20 that Chevron hasn’t told us about? And what was the toll on local wildlife and plant life of those incidents?

Whatever is going on here, it certainly provides more evidence that Chevron puts production and profits ahead of the wellbeing of its own workers and the environment.