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What Is Offshore Fracking?

With Enviros Calling for Deeper Review, Feds Explain How Offshore Process Differs from Onshore


Last week, as a coalition of environmental agencies called on the California Coastal Commission to do everything it could to regulate the use of hydraulic fracturing at the Santa Barbara Channel’s offshore oil rigs, representatives from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement ​— ​or BSEE, which approves offshore drilling permits ​— ​were busy explaining to The Santa Barbara Independent how offshore “fracking” is far different than the onshore use of the now controversial technology.

In short, whereas the technique ​— ​which involves using sand, water, chemicals, and other materials as part of a drilling operation ​— ​can be used to dramatically increase extraction potential onshore, the offshore use is more to “enhance the safety and security of the well while optimizing production,” explained BSEE spokesperson Nicholas Pardi. He noted that offshore fracking usually only uses 2 percent of the liquids required onshore, like in the Marcellus shale of the eastern United States. “Full scale hydraulic fracturing has been tried in the offshore shales but with limited success to date,” added Pardi, since the Monterey shale here is already naturally fractured and because costs are prohibitively high for fracking offshore.

Environmentalists remain concerned, however, including Brian Segee of Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center, one of the groups petitioning the government to require more reviews of the technology. “Instead of throwing out red herrings,” said Segee, “BSEE should be instituting an immediate moratorium on offshore fracking while it figures out where and how often fracking has been done, and what it means for the unparalleled natural resources of the Santa Barbara Channel.”

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