The US has been able to experience a shale boom thanks to hydraulic fracturing, and its ability to make oil and natural gas trapped in shale rock formations available for extraction.
Around the country fracking has come under attack from many environmentalist and conservationist groups who protest at its potential to cause damage to the environment. As the inevitability of fracking moving to California seems more certain, protestors have begun to make a stand.
California is set to be the next boom state as companies look for ways to develop the Monterey shale formation that runs from central California down to the south, and holds more than 15 billion barrels of oil.
Related article: A Look at the US Shale Industry with David Hughes
A report from Next Generation stated that “politically, it’s the same fight as elsewhere – environmental regulations have been drafted, legislation written and fought over, Hollywood films made, coalitions pro and con organized -- all focused on the potential benefits, and threats, of widespread fracking.
But in California, at least, the obsession with fracking may be misplaced.”
That is because their report has revealed a new technique that is preferred in the Monterey shale due to the plays complex formation and low-permeable rocks that make traditional fracking much less effective.
The new technique is known as acidizing, and it involves pouring huge amounts of hydrofluoric or hydrochloric acid, incredibly powerful solvents, into the wells to dissolve the rock and release the trapped oil and gas.
Related article: Improving Shale Well Profits with Enhanced Oil Recovery Techniques
Acids are very dangerous substances, and whilst there have been no major accidents in the US so far, the huge volumes being transported around to oil fields in the back of trucks could result in a deadly accident similar to the tragedy in Korea last year, when hydrofluoric acid leak killed 5 workers.
One of the major concerns that the report highlights is that “there appears to be no research or other publicly available information about HF’s use in oil and gas production or its potential effects on groundwater supplies. But the risks are clear.”
Senator Fran Pavley has suggested the US’s first set of regulations that will cover all forms of fracking, and other techniques used, and aim to tighten control of the safety practised within the industry.
Senator Pavley said that “this report is a reminder that regulations need to keep pace with technology. We need to protect the public and the environment from all dangerous chemicals, regardless of how the chemicals are used.”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com