The Facts

Every 12 months

approximately 86,000 barrels of oil

seep into the ocean along the Santa Barbara coast.


Do you know…

Natural oil seepage is the greatest source of hydrocarbon pollution in the ocean and atmosphere.

According to a study by the National Research Council (NRC) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences,

“natural seeps are the highest contributors of petroleum hydrocarbons to the marine environment. Of the total load of petroleum hydrocarbons discharged into the sea, natural seeps account for the largest load, nearly 61 percent of the total. In southern California, natural seeps represent 98 percent of oil inputs to the offshore zone. In fact, the extensive system of natural seeps off Coal Oil Point accounts for nearly two thirds of the total load received by coastal and offshore waters of the Pacific seaboard, including Hawaii. “

Do you know…

Offshore Santa Barbara has the second largest marine oil seeps in the world.

The largest natural oil and gas seeps in the Western Hemisphere lie in the Santa Barbara Channel. According to the California State Lands Commission, they comprise more than 1,200 of the over 2,000 active submarine seeps along the California coast. Half of these occur within 3 miles of an area called Coal Oil Point, located just west of Santa Barbara near the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus.Educating-Public

It is estimated that oil seepage for a single 6-mile stretch, including Coal Oil Point, averages 10,000 gallons of oil each day (240 barrels). Every 12 months about 86,000 barrels of oil seep into the ocean—the equivalent of the quantity of oil spilled in the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara. Since 1970, the quantity of oil that naturally seeps into the Santa Barbara Channel equals ~ 31 “1969” oil spills.


Fact – Seeps Are Natural Phenomena

Crude oil and natural gas seep naturally out of fissures in the ocean seabed and eroding sedimentary rock. These seeps are natural springs where liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons leak out of the ground (like springs that ooze oil and gas instead of water).

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Fact – Seeps Impact the Environment

Huge, natural seeps have been spewing oil and gas into the Santa Barbara Channel for centuries. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and other sources, the resulting tar was used by the Chumash and other native populations for waterproofing.

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Fact – Seeps Impact Marine Wildlife

Unknown-1Our coastal waters are home to rich and diverse marine environments. The areas offshore Santa Barbara support a great diversity of marine species, many of which are extremely rare and given special protection under federal and state law.

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Fact – Methane Emissions from Seeps Contribute to Global Warming

As seep bubbles rise to the ocean surface, substantial amounts of hydrocarbons dissolve in the water column, forming a subsurface gradient of dissolved hydrocarbons, principally methane. The remaining seep bubbles that do not dissolve continue to the surface and burst, releasing the gaseous components to the atmosphere.

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