Lewis Griswold

Griswold: Former state senator will drill oil well in Tulare County

Don Rogers, a petroleum geologist who once worked at Exxon, is getting ready to drill an oil well south of Porterville in the Deer Creek oil field.

Rogers owns Smilodon Oil Co.

Despite how it sounds, the "don" in Smilodon is not a play on his first name. Smilodon is the Latin generic name for the saber-toothed tiger of La Brea tar pits fame, he said, and was the name of the company when he acquired it.

Rogers doesn't brag about it, but he is a former state senator from Bakersfield who served in the 1980s and '90s.

Last year, he got permission from Tulare County to drill a new well.

"It's not a wildcat" -- a well drilled in an area not known for oil production -- but will replace a well that is producing poorly, Rogers said. He still needs a permit from the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources but expects that soon.

It is only the second production well approved in Tulare County in five years because applications are rare.

The well will be about 140 feet deep and should produce about three or four barrels of oil a day, Rogers said. A truck will come up about once a month and take the oil to Bakersfield to insert into a pipeline.

Oil in Tulare County has a lot of water in it that must be removed by heating the mixture that comes out of the ground.

"It's what we call 'stripper wells,' " Rogers said, because the water is "stripped" away from the oil.

Tulare County has 81 producing wells, said Tulare County Assessor Roland Hill. In 2011, about 48,000 barrels of oil were pumped, valued at about $9.2 million, Hill said.

SCHOOL BUILD: A two-story building will be going up at Redwood High in Visalia in the next few years.

The 16-classroom academic building will be on the Conyer Street side of campus, replacing eight portables.

The $6.5 million building will be ready for use in August 2015, Visalia Unified said. The architect is Taylor Teter Partnership in Visalia.

Also on tap: A new $35 million middle school at the northwest corner of Akers Street and Riggin Avenue, in northwest Visalia. It'll be the city's fifth middle school, opening in 2106. SIM Architects of Fresno is the architect.

Both projects are being funded by state and local money, including the $60.1 million Measure E school bond that passed in November.

BIRTH CENTER: Adventist Health said last week it would build a birthing center in Hanford next to its 2-year-old hospital.

Groundbreaking for the $40 million, 49,000-square-foot building should take place this year, and the center is scheduled to open in two years, said Adventist Health spokeswoman Christine Pickering.

The new birthing center will have all private rooms and 34 beds.

The current birthing center at Central Valley General Hospital on Douty Street would be expensive to modernize, so the Roseville-based nonprofit opted to build a new one, she said.