The Summerland Oil Field (and Summerland Offshore Oil Field) is an inactive oil field in Santa Barbara County, California, about four miles (6 km) east of the city of Santa Barbara, within and next to the unincorporated community of Summerland. First developed in the 1890s, and richly productive in the early 20th century, the Summerland Oil Field was the location of the world’s first offshore oil wells, drilled from piers in 1896. This field, which was the first significant field to be developed in Santa Barbara County, produced 3.18 million of barrels of oil during its 50-year lifespan, finally being abandoned in 1939-40.
In California, Henry Williams by 1897 had successfully pursued the giant Summerland oilfield to the scenic cliff side beaches of Santa Barbara. With reports of “tar balls” on the beaches from natural offshore oil seeps, Williams recognized that the highly productive field extended into the Pacific Ocean. He and his associates constructed a 300 foot pier, mounted a cable-tool derrick, and began drilling. When California’s first offshore oil well proved successful, more than 20 petroleum companies rushed to Santa Barbara. They constructed 14 more piers, the longest extending 1,230 feet. Over the next five years more than 400 Summerland offshore wells were drilled.
American Oil & Gas Historical Society