SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
About Contact Subscribe Calendar Publish Print Donate

California | Environment & Forest Defense

Fracking California: A Casual Concern?
by Tomas DiFiore
Wednesday Feb 6th, 2013 9:17 AM
A fracking study was a requirement of the June 2011 settlement that was facilitated by the County of Los Angeles and agreed to by plaintiffs, who had sued both the County and PXP. The Baldwin Hills Study made industry headlines. But anyone following the news on high-volume horizontal/deviant slick water hydraulic fracturing (HVHDSW HF) will immediately recognize the limitations in the Inglewood/Baldwin Hills PXP study:
Fracking California

Drilling more than a mile deep underground, and turning off axis and then going perhaps twice that distance more, means entering a dynamic environment of pressurized compacted Earth. California oilfield operators learned that very early on when drillers would tap a highly pressured oil pool and cause a gusher. Generally, today, vertical well borehole fracking is used in California only to keep old wells in oil fields producing.

“Hydraulic fracturing has been employed safely in California for 60 years...using an average 164,000 gallons of freshwater per well” (WSPA). But hydraulic fracturing (hf) for oil which may contain gas is different than HF for gas. There is also a necessary differentiation between vertical wells and horizontal drilled wells, and a third technique called deviant drilling which, off axis from the horizontal which by definition is perpendicular to the vertical well borehole, would likely produce from the folded seams of the Monterey Shales most efficiently.

Unlike vertical wells, (un)conventional natural gas wells employ horizontal and deviant drilling techniques that require LARGE volumes of water, HIGH pressure delivery by pumps producing thousands of horsepower, slickwater friction reducing chemicals, frac fluids, up to 3 million pounds of sand per well.... 10/26/2011 “operators are routinely fracking with 3 million pounds of proppant (sand alone, or sand + ceramics) in the Bakken, Williston Basin, North Dakota”

“In 2007, approximately 31,000 gas wells were drilled in the U.S. ICF estimates that of these,
approximately 25,000 wells were unconventional. A total of 300,000 unconventional gas wells will be drilled between 2009 and 2020 to achieve the gas production forecast through 2020. This represents an outlay of $560 billion for drilling and completion costs over the twelve year period. While this is a tremendous outlay by industry, the analysis presented here shows that the North American gas market will support this development.”

Oilfield earthquakes are not a problem any more, not now, at least not yet, in California.

After fresh water, sand, and chemical additives, are pumped in under extreme pressure, the fracking water is pumped back out before you can extract the oil. Mostly the flowback is pumped down somewhere else to backfill the reservoir space that used to hold oil, a technique called well injection. The industry learned about 50 years ago that sinking ground caused shallow earthquakes. The huge Wilmington oilfield under Long Beach had six damaging earthquakes between 1947 and 1961 before water injection methods alleviated the 'environmental impacts'.

Lawsuits tend to get agencies and industries motivated to gather data, and much useful information can then be extracted.

By 2008, scientists had already discovered a linear relationship between oil and gas extraction and ground subsidence in the Baldwin Hills. Surveying indicated that greater than two feet of subsidence-related, horizontal earth movement occurred in the Baldwin Hills from 1934 to 1961. In fact, by 1957, up to 10 feet of subsidence occurred in certain areas of the Baldwin Hills. This subsidence resulted in the catastrophic failure of the Baldwin Hills dam on December 14, 1963, killing five people and damaging or destroying 277 homes.

Land surface subsidence in the Baldwin Hills decreased with the advent of injecting water into the reservoirs to replace the withdrawn oil and gas reserves. However, researchers from the United States Geological Survey determined that from October 1993 to October 1998, portions of the Baldwin Hills were instead experiencing uplift as a result of water injection. Scientists have also determined that the possibility exists for earthquakes to occur along pre-existing fault lines when there is increased pressure from injection wells used in enhanced recovery operations.

The roshomon argument, would have us could believe that fracking releases tectonic stress a bit and we'll just get micro-quakes. These are releasing the stress that’s accumulated rather than it building and building and then California would have a much larger earthquake.

Let's dally a while at the edge of a LITTLE EARTHQUAKE information.

How do you regulate earthquakes?
The Newport Inglewood fault, actually a 47-mile long complex network of faults, underlies the oil field of the same name. The US Geological Survey says it is capable of a 7.4 earthquake. Bloomberg News (April 20, 2012): “Fracking Linked Earthquakes Spurring State Regulations: U.S. Geological Survey researchers found that, for three decades prior to 2000, seismic events in the nation’s midsection averaged 21 a year. They jumped to 50 in 2009, 87 in 2010 and 134 in 2011, according to the study, which was presented April 18 at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America.”

Subseismic Stress Relief
“Engelder said fracking does not cause any seismic activity significant enough to cause any damage to nearby properties.” He said when fracking, “there can be small pops of energy that cause subseismic activity.” Engelder said generally companies avoid drilling in known fault zones, and that the seismic activity in the undetectable fault zones is not capable of causing earthquakes of concern.

Don't Worry Be Frac Happy
Knowledge about subseismic architectural parameters stems from outcrops, shallow analogues, and process-based modelling observations. Information is also derived from core and well-log data (image and dipmeter logs), which are, by nature, areally sparse. Thus, knowledge about subseismic architecture often comes with large uncertainties.

Attributes of the California Shales

California shale reservoirs contain abundant interbedded siltstones. Like the Bakken shale in North Dakota and Montana and the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas, the California shales have abundant hydrocarbons currently in place and in a lot of cases thousands of feet of pay thickness. They compare favorably to the Bakken and Eagle Ford on such factors as total organic content, gross thickness, depth, porosity and permeability.

Evidence of environmental impacts in all the above mentioned shale gas plays are everything we've heard about, and the tally isn't in yet.

To the oil and gas industry, which seeks to minimize the perceived impacts, “fracking” refers only to the actual moment in the extraction process where rock is fractured by pumping fluid at high pressure down the well bore.

Limiting the definition of fracking in this way also allows the oil and gas industry to include its long history of using hydraulic fracturing in traditional, vertical wells to create a false narrative about the safety of the new technology of "high-volume, high-pressure, horizontal hydraulic slick-water fracturing" (fracking).

And so it is that the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) is doggedly going about regulating fracking, such that a year ago when the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water inquired, the agency had no data to supply. And this was a year after DOGGR had gotten extra money it had asked for, to develop fracking regulations.

Yet another year later, we are nowhere nearer to understanding anything about industry plans for California and the PR campaign is louder than a gusher and thicker than an oil slick.

At the same time; a fracking study was a requirement of the June 2011 settlement that was facilitated by the County of Los Angeles and agreed to by plaintiffs, who had sued both the County and PXP.

The Baldwin Hills Study made industry headlines. But anyone following the news on high-volume horizontal/deviant slick water hydraulic fracturing (HVHDSW HF) will immediately recognize limitations on the Inglewood/Baldwin Hills PXP study:

“Fracking is a set of oilfield techniques in which rock is gently shattered and grit washed into the resulting microcracks. The grit holds the cracks open allowing oil and gas to be pumped out. For the study, PXP tested two varieties of fracking on each of two vertical wells in the Inglewood field: "high-volume" and "high-rate gravel pack" techniques. Both are appropriate for the extremely fine grained shale rock that fracking is designed for.”
“gently shattered”
“two vertical wells”
“oil and gas to be pumped out”

Again, this is the language of vertical well stimulation.
*Except for the terms “high-pressure”_which refers to the pressure required to shatter impermeable rock (shales) with exaggerated fissures under thousands of feet of immense pressure. The term “gently shattered” has to be a frac anomaly. In the case of (un)conventional gas wells employing high-volume horizontal/deviant slick water HF, the water, sand, and frac fluids are “pumped” in under extreme pressure and the gas, is released out of 'rock' under great pressure of the earth and flow out the well head. The gas flows out with a slurry or mix of toxic frac fluids, brackish water, naturally occurring radioactive material such as radium 226, and some of the water that was pumped in.

“It is important that interested stake holders are cognizant of the differences between hydraulic fracking in the mid-west and north east, and in California. While most of the controversy has revolved around hydraulic fracking for natural gas, in California the geology only allows for fracking for oil.”
Hydraulic Fracking And The Inglewood Oil Field
Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas LA County, 2nd district – posted in the Environment

Bingo! Somebody official actually said it. By extension it can be seen that California can create a moratorium on high-volume horizontal/deviant slick water hydraulic fracturing – at the same no redrilling or refitting or reclassification of existing or new wells for HVHDSW HF would be allowed.

Now... on to the disposal of excess fracking water (the toxic wastewater).

A USGS report that found that water from fracking was 3,609 times more radioactive than the federal limit for drinking water and 300 times more radioactive than a Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for industrial discharges to water. Read the following 2 links:

Well injection takes care of a lot of the flowback fracking water, but the toxic wastewater needs to be dealt with somehow. In other states to date, it has been dumped on the ground or poured into ponds to evaporate, without much care. It has also gained a “beneficial use designation” and is spread on dirt road surfaces to control dust and paved road surfaces to control ice. It is even sold to municipalities in the east because it is cheaper than salt for the same purposes.

What about the air? What you can't smell can hurt you!
Losses of up to 9% show need for broader data on US gas industry’s environmental impact.
January 02, 2013

Scientists are once again reporting alarmingly high methane emissions from an oil and gas field, underscoring questions about the environmental benefits of the boom in natural-gas production that is transforming the US energy system.

The researchers, who hold joint appointments with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado in Boulder, first sparked concern in February 2012 with a study suggesting that up to 4% of the methane produced at a field near Denver was escaping into the atmosphere. If methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is leaking from fields across the country at similar rates, it could be offsetting much of the climate benefit of the ongoing shift from coal- to gas-fired plants for electricity generation.

Industry officials and some scientists contested the claim. At an American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, California, last month, the research team reported new Colorado data that support the earlier work, as well as preliminary results from a field study in the Uinta Basin of Utah suggesting even higher rates of methane leakage an eye-popping 9% of the total production. That figure is nearly double the cumulative loss rates estimated from industry data which are already higher in Utah than in Colorado.

If I understand the math right...
Only 30 percent of the Monterey Shale resource is recoverable. Of that, 9 per cent is lost at the point of production, the gas well. And the industry wants to export LNG because the US market isn't big enough. But that is a multi year investment of hundreds of billions of dollars in pipelines, LNG facilities for export and target market LNG import facilities, shipping, and more environmental and health impacts than imaginable.

Think before you lease:
Seems a lot of critics miss the point in “Promised Land”.

I like that it focused on how we find ourselves in the real predicament of neighbor against neighbor, town differences. It’s not like a landowner just drops in on the local Planning Department and files a well drilling permit.

How many people even know what their mineral rights are, or who has them?

The legal complexity and twists and turns in thirty States of political deceit, personal disasters, health impacts, and environmental impacts to air – water quality, the networks of landscape surface disturbances, sand mining, abuse to public social infrastructures, community character, lawsuits, gag orders by industry implicated judges on trial evidence and doctors' reports, toxic spills, earthquakes, billion dollar investments (on loan from AIG, Goldman-Sachs and other billion dollar lending institutions), etc., etc., etc., won't fit in a 2 hour movie.

And no one, no one, gets that the “environmentalist” in the movie was a company decoy and is there to keep community perspective in check. How come no one mentions that! Every critic talks about the cows.... That was perfect Psy-Ops deployment.

Here's another “Promised Land”review, on point.

Just another movie-goer,
Tomas DiFiore