What Is Offshore Fracking?

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

Thursday, August 22, 2013
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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.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Independent readers may find it helpful and informative to review a half-hour television interview with Chris Wrather and Bob Field, both of
Santa Barbara County, on the subject of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."

Included is footage on the subject produced by The Ecologist.

William Smithers

bilwil (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2013 at 12:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It is something really really really bad that will destroy the planet and the universe.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2013 at 6:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The facts:

1. Not a SINGLE incident of fracking causing contamination or gas in water has been found - anywhere. Oil drilling, yes, but fracking as the specific cause, no.

2. Fracking happens thousands of feet BELOW the deepest water tables.

3. Oil drilling sometimes makes a mess, regardless if the drilling is fracking or not fracking. There are 10s of thousands of pages of Federal, State, County and in some cases City regulations that are further overlapped with coastal commissions, air quality boards, ocean protection regulators, etc. It's incredibly regulated. The fact that the SB county gov'nt union bureaucrats didn't know there was fracking going on is a non issue because of #1 above.

4. There is 5-10X more oil spill and liquid petroleum pollution per square mile in garages and on the roads of Santa Barbara than there are in *ALL* of SB county combined from *ALL* oil production, fracking or otherwise.

5. The "toxic cocktail" that lib-dems and enviro activists work themselves into a frenzy about is actually well understood and constitutes less than 1% of what is pumped into oblivion 4000+ feet below the surface. These chemicals are household things like detergents.

6. Reports of earthquakes, which HAVE been reported and tied to fracking are the same as what are tied to some oil drilling and are the same size as caused when the roof of an abandoned coal mine collapses which is less than 0.025 on the richter scale.

Matt's bosses make him write these articles because it supports readership and circulation of the Independent Al Gore worshiping SB residents who watched "Gas Land" and thus drives more advertising dollars. I might be wrong and Matt is just another low-information reporter crazed and about oil and oblivious to the idea of writing in a complete and balanced way. One of the two.

willy88 (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2013 at 12:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Can someone ask Mr. Segee to:
- stop driving
- remove all plastic from his bicycle
- include a sentence in his health directive that no petroleum products, including plastic intravenous tubing, shall be allowed to treat him if he needed it
- take all the plastic out of his house, including insulation on all wiring
- build a Tee-Pee, sew his own clothes and dig up root vegetables with a wooden stick that he is careful only to collect from fallen branches (vs. taking off a live tree)

- and one more thing: stop using telephones and the internet, because they require plastics to work.

Thanks so much!

willy88 (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2013 at 1 p.m. (Suggest removal)

you can have all the plastic toys to yourself Willy, and when the planet no longer supports life, at least the plastic toys and robots will still be around.

spacey (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2013 at 1:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I arrived in Santa Barbara 30 yrs. ago to work on the oil boats. I landed a berth on a Halliburton boat that claimed to be the first "fracking" boat in the Channel. I was a seaman and did not work on the oil servicing side so I don't know all the details. The main component they used at that time was liquid nitrogen, which is inert. The boat carried large tanks of the stuff and we would pump into both production and exploratory offshore wells. As it was explained to me, when pumped into the well the nitrogen would warm and expand to create the pressure for fracking. My memory, which is vague, was that this was done to increase production. I believe that prior to that boat arriving in the area (and after) , the supply boats would haul smaller nitrogen tanks out to the rigs and they pumped the nitrogen in themselves.

I didn't care for that industry and left that job after a few months. The boat stayed working in the Channel until the slowdown several years later.

Cogito (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2013 at 2:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If you would like to see a refutation of the false statements by "willy88" in Nos. 1 and 5 of his comment, please review the half-hour television interview with Chris Wrather and Bob Field previously recommended:

willy's personal attack on the motive and trustworthiness of Independent writer Matt Kettman for seeming not to agree with him simply reinforces the quality, or lack of it, of his other statements.

William Smithers

bilwil (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2013 at 11:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I, for one, watched the interview and while the program does not factually demonstrate that fracking is bad; it does demonstrate that some people think fracking is really really really bad(infinity).
Goodbye planet. Goodbye Universe.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
August 23, 2013 at 7:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)


You say you have viewed the interview of Chris Wrather and Bob Field previously referred to and "...does not demonstrate that fracking is bad;...":

Therefore - are you concealing from the readers here that:

Industry trucks spilled into Truman Benet's Pennsylvania farm pond fracking fluid, which killed every living thing in it - fish, turtles, frogs – and left in the family's drinking water “high concentrations of lead”; they were told not to bathe in or drink from it?

The fracking fluid forced under great pressure into pipes and brought up again needing “safe” disposal contains, among other chemicals methanol, hydrochloric acid and ethylene glycol?

A congressional study of fracking fluids found 750 chemicals, 29 of which are known carcinogens or controlled by the EPA​?

Fracking in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale unearths radium 226 – that can kill you – as well as radon?

5,000 gallons of toxic fracking fluids - that must be disposed of “safely” - are used in each well, and that one spill of a tanker truck transporting these fluids into a river will render that river forever unusable?

Do you live in the Santa Ynez or Los Alamos Valleys where Santa Barbara County's Energy & Minerals Deputy Director Doug Anthony has said if these poisonous fluids migrate from the created cracks in the earth to the valley's wells, that population's only source of drinking, washing and irrigation water would be devastatingly contaminated?

Do you conceal from these readers your having heard from Bob Field that waiting until proof of such an irreversible event occurs is beyond irresponsible?

William Smithers

bilwil (anonymous profile)
August 23, 2013 at 5:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Matt, your article is pure drivel....again more disorganized, biased, and baseless garbage from The Not So support liberal minded, one sided, nitwits who seem to think the world is an orb revolving around Santa Barbara...

We've been fracking offshore wells in CA for thirty years; and on shore for almost as long, without ONE incident or problem directly relating to fracking.
Even in the Pennsylvania Marcellus shale, there have been more more than TWO issues of water intrusion relating to fracking, which happened in an area with a high density of wells, in a shallow formation, with water wells which had not been logged or identified, so it was NOT even the fault of the drillers...

So cut the BS, MATT, STICK WITH THE FACTS, and if you're going to write an article on fracking, at least use what little skills you and your compatriots at the Independent may have and at least make an attempt to write a factually correct, balanced article....something which you and everyone else on your staff seems incapable of.

thomas592003 (anonymous profile)
August 26, 2013 at 2:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dear Thomas,
Thanks for tuning into, but you seem to have a deep reading comprehension problem, or at the very least, like your buddy Willy, a basic underlying deficiency for understanding how journalism functions.

The story above is the latest in a long series of reports that we started to publish on hydraulic fracturing a number of years ago, when we discovered that fracking had been conducted onshore near Los Alamos. Santa Barbara County quickly established strict fracking regulations, due to concerns over how potential groundwater contamination could affect farming. Those are the facts of what happened.

A July 2013 report by and the Associated Press on fracking in the Santa Barbara Channel again kicked up public interest, so I have done a handful of reports since then, mostly from the perspective of the government regulators involved, though also including some information about politicians moving to regulate the practice further. These are also hard facts.

The above piece is based on what the feds told me about how fracking works offshore, based again on facts. The bias, if any, would probably be pro-oil, as they're explaining what happens offshore shouldn't be too worrisome. Maybe you missed that part?

The last paragraph is a response to that explanation from the Environmental Defense Center, which recently spoke to the California Coastal Commission on this topic. They remain convinced that, despite what BSEE is saying, there is a public interest in looking deeper at what fracking means in offshore waters. More than half of Californians agree. Again, facts.

It seems that you may be conflating comments made by the EDC as somehow being my position on the issue, or being reflective of what The Independent thinks about fracking? If so, then you are mistaken. We have not taken a position on any of this, other than the fairly standard idea that, as journalists, it is our job to inform the public about what's going on and why as best we can .

As is often the case with comments alleging "bias" and "drivel" and the like, it may be your own deep biases over this matter or over our moderately minded paper or over whatever it is that enrages you so much that is causing you to look at even coverage of this issue as circumspect.

If you are saying that we simply should ignore fracking and offshore drilling and keep the public in the dark about everything for the sake of some greater good, then I would disagree with you there. My job is to report what's known, what's not known, and what's happening so that the public can make up their own minds based on facts.

Luckily for all, our articles and the professionals who write them with their real names attached carry a bit more weight than the anonymous posters who purport to know the real facts but then aren't brave enough to use their real names. Come out from behind your veils if you are so sure of what you stand for.

Take care,

Matt (Matt Kettmann)
August 26, 2013 at 4:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

noted journalist Roger Cohen writes about "Britain's Furor Over Fracking" in the NYTimes, 8/27/13...and while he states that it remains unproven that fracking causes groundwater contamination, "many studies suggest links to deteriorating [water] quality". I believe good science requires a heckuva lot more study, as Trautwein states in the article above.
In the UK, where regular folks are much livelier than here, Thomas 59 and Willy notwithstanding, it's wonderful to see that many Tories [conservatives] are outraged by their Tory government's headlong surge into bigtime fracking in the UK. And the support for Cameron's Tory government and it's crazed lurch toward bigtime fracking depends on "Big money", and scientific research be damned.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 6:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Again, Matt, there has been, count them, TWO, instances of ground water contamination, both of which were in the Marcellus shale in PA, both involving situations in which the local ground water management agencies failed in their responsibility to notify the natural gas driller of water wells. Had the regulatory agency done its job properly, the gas driller would have never perforated in the aqueous zones.

That is the sum total of facts in which fracking has resulted in ground water contamination...

With 10s of thousands of wells having been fracked, I'd bet on those odds...that's not to say regulatory oversight is not required. It is, but these practices monitored and overseen by a long list of rules and regulations, which (as technology develops) are continuing to evolve and adapt to new technologies, (such as the use of increased pressure or multiple stage fracks).

Further, you've neglected to note that fracks are increasingly making use of environmental benign solutions (which include Orange Oil among other things0 which further mitigates the risks you are concerned with...that is to say the oil service industry is taking many steps, on its own, to mitigate your concerns.

Good luck with your research, stick to the facts next time...

thomas592003 (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 10:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

there has been a case in Wyoming [Pavillion, and later EPA work shows there is a contamination problem], and try this webref Thomas:
While we have literally no idea how much fracking has been going on (a problem in itself), your point, Thomas, that "10s of thousands of wells having been fracked" means precisely we need to study the longer-term effects. Good luck with your research.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2013 at 3:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Studying the long-term effects is good. Immediate moratoria based on speculation and conjecture is not.

Botany (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2013 at 5:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

thomas is attempting fight religion with fact...
Matt confuses the factual reporting of opinions with the objective facts about fracking...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2013 at 8:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Not one??? What about the fish die off in Ky after dumping fracking fluid?

The study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish and Wildlife Service says the fracking liquids are believed to be the cause of a die-off of Blackside dace that lived in the Acorn Fork, a small creek in Knox County. The small minnow-like fish is considered at risk by federal officials due of a loss of habitat.

The spill occurred in 2007, and officials collected samples shortly after.

"Our study is a precautionary tale of how entire populations could be put at risk even with small-scale fluid spills," USGS scientist Diana Papoulias, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Fossil Fuel industry itself admits that up to 5% of cement casings fail (leak or crack ) within yr one and up to 50 % over 30 years.

We know the EPA covered up the findings of contamination of well water in Dimock , and Parker Tx and I believe also Pavillion

Immediate moratorium based on knowing what INEVITABLE spills and leaks can and will and HAVE done to aquatic ecosystems...-is the only this that makes sense. Waiting till the damage is done is foolish especially in already seismically active terrain like ours...where waste water injection further destabilizes underground faults .

morgainele (anonymous profile)
August 29, 2013 at 4:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As for claims of not one reported spill directly related to fracking: Maybe that's because, according to the Presidenrs BP PLC oil spill commission, "There has historically been no legal requirement that industry track or report instances of uncontrolled hydrocarbon releases or 'near misses' -- both indicators that could point to a heightened potential for serious accidents,"

The new tracking system follows multiple serious oil and gas incidents in the Gulf of Mexico over the past year, including the blowout and fire on Hercules Offshore Inc.'s shallow-water jackup rig last month and an explosion and fire aboard a Black Elk Energy natural gas production platform last November that claimed three lives.
beginning in 2003 (EnergyWire, Aug. 23).

morgainele (anonymous profile)
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skyxxxxx (anonymous profile)
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