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Oxy Petroleum's oil and gas discovery may be California's largest in 35 years

The equivalent of 150 million to 250 million barrels of oil was found in a field that is 80% owned by the Westwood company, with two-thirds of the new source believed to be natural gas.

July 23, 2009|Ronald D. White

Occidental Petroleum Corp. said it had discovered oil and natural gas in a Kern County field that might represent the biggest find in California in more than 35 years.

The nation's fourth-biggest oil company said Wednesday that it had found the equivalent of 150 million to 250 million barrels of oil, adding that two-thirds of the new source was believed to be natural gas.

The Westwood company owns 80% of the Kern County field; Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, Calif., owns the rest.

"We believe this to be the largest new oil and gas discovery made in California in more than 35 years," said Ray R. Irani, Occidental chairman and chief executive.

The discovery was described as major by analysts and probably resulted from improved exploration technology. The find could cause other oil companies to redouble their efforts to drill for oil and natural gas in the U.S., they said.

"Occidental's reserves as of the end of last year were about 3 billion barrels. Even if you take the low end of their estimate, it's a very meaningful find," said Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst for Oppenheimer & Co.

The discovery was all the more valuable because of its location, he said.

"They don't have to travel far," Gheit said. "They don't have to negotiate complicated agreements with foreign governments. Basically, they will be drilling in their own backyard."

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ron.white@latimes.com

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