Gaurdie E. Banister Jr., CEO of Aera Energy LLC, announced late last week that one of its survey teams had discovered a massive oil reservoir in a long-overlooked anticline area of the Ventura River watershed, using a recently developed ground-penetrating radar in conjunction with advanced isotope tracer techniques.

The area, called the Barnard Fault, which is just south of the Ventura oil field, was previously surveyed in the 1950s. At the time, the depth of the oil pocket was estimated to be more than 40,000 feet with a temperature of more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which made the oil unviable for excavation until now.

The survey team determined that the temperature of the oil is now much cooler and at a depth of about 21,000 feet, thus making it prime for extraction.

“Although using ground-penetrating radar is not new, the way Aera Energy uses it is unique, as it allows our survey teams to bounce the highly defined shortwave radar signals off mildly radioactive isotopes that we inject into the reservoir,” Banister said.

Banister said that because of recent advances in geologic fault investigation and sampling, Aera can now drill much deeper and more safely than it used to. Because of recent geologic activity, oil that was previously trapped at a much deeper level has now seeped into these shallower geologic folds, or traps, making it ideal for drilling.

Initial estimates put the potential output of this reservoir at about 80,000 barrels per day — almost seven times more than the Ventura oil field, and, with an annual yield of roughly 29 million barrels for roughly 15 years, which is on par with mid 1950s peak production levels.

After an agreement was struck Tuesday, City Manager Rick Cole stated that because the new reservoir lies smack dab in the middle of the bank swallow (Riparia riparia) habitat and lies outside of the Ventura oil field owned by Aera Energy but still inside city limits, Aera Energy will split the profits with the city of Ventura in an unprecedented deal.

The exact details of the deal have yet to be revealed, but one thing Ventura Mayor Bill Fulton did say is, “Without a doubt, the potential revenue from this deal would more than make up for the city’s $4 million budget shortfall.”

City Councilman Jim Monahan, who participated in the negotiations, echoed Fulton’s excitement: “I can say that a 45.4 percent take on the total yearly revenue is not a bad gig,” he said.

City Councilman Brian Brennan’s excitement was somewhat muted.

“Although this could be a true blessing for Ventura, we must not overlook the fact that the bank swallow is a threatened species,” he said.

Recently introduced to the Ventura River area from the Santa Clara River area, the bank swallow has been flourishing.

Fulton acknowledged Brennan’s sentiment, but remained optimistic.

“Although the bank swallow is listed as ‘threatened,’ it is not listed as ‘endangered,’” Fulton said. He also noted that its population is stable.

“This is an environmentally sensitive species, but the actual planned drilling area will not directly affect the bird’s primary habitat — not to mention that Aera Energy has a flawless environmental safety record,” Monahan said.

The drilling will commence after an environmental impact report is completed.    

 This story is one of many in our April Fool’s Day package this week.