The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Energy Tomorrow Radio: Episode 91 - THUMS Islands Location Tour

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted October 6, 2009

This week's episode focuses on a recent tour of the THUMS Islands, a group of four manmade islands in California's Long Beach Harbor, where oil and natural gas are produced. The episode also features sound bites from Frank Komin, president of Occidental Petroleum, and Charlie Plant, production manager of White Island.

Use the audio player below to listen to the recap and follow along with the show notes. I hope you find the podcast informative.

Show Notes:

00:20 The THUMS Islands are four manmade islands in California's Long Beach Harbor where oil and natural gas have been produced for the past 40 years.

01:00 The discovery of oil in the Long Beach area set off a drilling boom that threatened to turn the coastline into an industrial zone, so city voters passed an initiative to tap the energy resources without compromising the view and environment. The city bid out the project and a consortium of companies won--including Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobil and Shell.

02:02 The THUMS consortium, named by combining the first initial of each of the winning companies, built the islands with 640,000 tons of boulders and more than 3 million cubic yards of sand. Today the islands are home to 1,100 active wells. From shore they look like resort communities with condos, waterfalls and sculptures. They also were landscaped with about 700 palm trees, kept alive by an elaborate irrigation system.

03:31 Behind the structures in the core of each island are state-of-the-art production technologies. In 2008, THUMS produced nearly 11 million barrels of oil and 5 billion cubic feet of natural gas while protecting the environment.

04:15 The wells are below grade in cellars that encircle the island and the camouflage drilling rig can skid along a set of railroad tracks to change its location.

04:44 Occidental uses directional drilling to find and produce pockets of oil and natural gas from the harbor area as well as beneath the city.

06:00 After the oil and natural gas are pumped upward to the island; they are processed and sent through pipelines buried below the sea floor to the shore. There they power the businesses, homes and vehicles of countless Americans. But these energy resources would be out of reach if not for the foresight of the city and the expertise of the oil industry.

06:21 Occidental, which bought the islands in 2000, says this public-private partnership has generated more than $5 billion in revenues for the city, state and private property owners.

07:10 For more information on the THUMS Islands please read the blog posts on