The fracking boom is laying waste to huge swaths of the western landscape, but drillers in California — the state that’s known for doing things a little bit differently — think that’s just not damaging enough.
Instead, they’re pumping acid into the ground and just melting the rocks (from SF Gate: “Acidizing Could Rival Fracking…”):
Companies trying to pry oil from a vast shale formation beneath Central California have been pumping powerful acids underground to dissolve the rock and free the petroleum within.
And there are hints that the process, known as “acidizing” a well, may work better than hydraulic fracturing in California’s Monterey Shale, estimated to hold 15.4 billion barrels of oil.
“There’s a lot of discussion around the Monterey Shale that it doesn’t require fracking, that acidizing will be enough to open up the rock,” said Chris Faulkner, chief executive officer of Breitling Oil and Gas. “I think it could be a way to unlock the Monterey. And people need to understand that this is a huge resource that could mean a lot of jobs.”
OK. We’re pumping acid into the ground. And not your weak, garden-variety acid, but hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acids.
Obviously, there’s no way that’s going to come back to haunt us.
But, California’s on top of it, right? I mean, the state that seems willing to regulate almost every aspect of pretty much everything wouldn’t just let a company pump acid into the ground like it was water…
State officials still don’t have a clear idea how many wells in California have been stimulated with acid. The state agency that regulates oil drilling – the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, within the California Department of Conservation – doesn’t keep track, although it might in the future.
I know industry treats the concept of pumping acid and solvents and dog knows what else into the ground with a certain aplomb — as if we’ve been doing this for centuries and we’ve got the whole process basically licked — but I don’t believe it.
It’s like Pebble Mine advocates believing that two gigantic earthen dams will hold toxic runoff away from pristine salmon spawning habitat basically forever.
I mean, I don’t think the Pebble Mine people actually believe they can pull that one off, but for the sake of short-term profits, they’re willing to pretend.
I’m hardly an earth/gaia type who believes every rock is sacred, but I’m also aware of corporate America’s long history of doing stupid shit now because the downside won’t rear up until long after the quarterly P&L statement has “met shareholder expectations.”
This seems like one of those moments.
At its best, this is a good example of an industry externalizing its costs — not just on taxpayers, but on the future.
See you pouring acid down my pants (and wondering later why it burns), Tom Chandler.