| SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 18
SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 18 California state
legislators on Tuesday told regulators and oil industry
lobbyists they wanted more information about the use of acid to
increase flows in wells in a technique that is used more often
in the state than the controversial fracking method.
California's century-old oil sector has come in for greater
scrutiny as companies make early attempts to tap the Monterey
shale, a deep formation that holds an estimated 15 billion
barrels of oil - twice that of North Dakota's widely publicized
Fracking - a technique that uses pressurized water to crack
open rock formations and allow oil to flow to wells - may have
become a better-known term because of its use around the country
to extract shale gas and oil but the use of acid appears to be
more extensive in California.
Oil companies in the state use hydrofluoric or hydrochloric
acid to clean out well bores and to fracture solid rock. The
technique is relatively old but its use has increased in the
"We have to get this right," state Senator Fran Pavley, who
chairs the senate committee on natural resources and water, said
at the hearing in Sacramento. "Regulators must also keep pace
with changing technologies."
Pavley is working on legislation to regulate fracking, which
has raised concerns around the country about contaminating water
tables, and is considering broadening her focus to include acid
jobs. There currently are no specific regulations on acid use in
Some eight out of 10 Monterey shale wells could be completed
using so-called acid jobs, she said, quoting figures cited by a
company in a recent Reuters article.
"It is a public hazard," environmental consultant Robert
Collier testified, explaining that acid could leak and be
Environmentalists have focused on the danger that acid jobs
present to workers and want more research on potential
"Slow down," advised Bill Allayaud, director of government
affairs at Environmental Working Group.
State regulators promised a report on acid in coming weeks
but offered no figures on the extent of the practice on Tuesday.
Occidental Petroleum Corp, which is leading the way
on Monterey development, said in 2011 it was mainly using acid
jobs to get at the shale, and said recently that only a sixth of
its California wells were fracked.
Mark Nechodom, head of the state's Department of
Conservation, said there was no evidence that there was a
problem to solve.
Briana Mordick, a petroleum geologist at the Natural
Resources Defense Council who called for "common sense"
regulation of acid, told the hearing that a 2004 paper described
the use of tens of thousands of gallons of hydrofluoric acid to
increase the production of one California well by nine times.
Industry representatives defended the practice, saying acid
jobs had been used for decades and even welcomed greater
disclosure because of their confidence in the technique.
"We use acid because it's effective," said Paul Deiro of the
Western States Petroleum Association. "I'm unaware of any
disasters related to this."
Many millions of people could be affected by oil development
in the Monterey shale, which runs across a vast expanse of the
state from Los Angeles to south of San Francisco.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, although considered among
the nation's greenest governors for his renewable energy
policies, surprised many supporters earlier this year when he
voiced support for more production from the Monterey shale.
Drillers still are working out the best way to extract oil
from the Monterey.
"Nobody's figured out the breakthrough technique," Robert
Collier, an environmental consultant, told the hearing. "The oil
companies are at the edge of what is known. There is no common
body of expertise, because everybody has their own special