Fracking Report on Santa Barbara Channel Reporter Discusses Research that Revealed Offshore Fracking

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
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Though he lives in New Orleans, reporter Mike Ludwig delivered one of the more eye-opening articles on the Santa Barbara Channel last week, when he published a special investigation on offshore hydraulic fracturing, a resource extraction technique better known by the nationally controversial term “fracking.”

After hearing that Venoco Inc. had fracked offshore in 2011 through an Environmental Defense Center report, Ludwig filed a number of Freedom of Information Act requests with the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which permits offshore drilling. Upon receiving the reports, Ludwig confirmed the Venoco project and found that the Ventura-based company DCOR, which runs 11 of the 24 rigs off of California, had applied and been given permission to frack.

“It’s important to ask the question of, ‘When do you need to have these federally mandated environmental reviews for certain projects?’,” said Ludwig. “That’s a gray area.” That’s especially true for more “experimental” techniques like fracking, said Ludwig, who acknowledged that the offshore fracks are using far less materials than the inland projects. “Even though it’s much smaller than what’s being done onshore,” said Ludwig, “is it being properly reviewed by regulators are are they rubber-stamping them?”

The Santa Barbara Independent has confirmed that Ludwig’s report was seen by many local, state, and federal agencies, and is trying to determine whether it has triggered any further reviews of the permitting process. Calls to DCOR in Ventura have also been made to determine the status of the company’s fracking project.

Read Ludwig’s full report here.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

1. Fracking is not experimental. It's a mature process with well understood best practices that has been done since the 1940's

2. The benefits of fracking FAR outweigh any negatives, which to date are the same negatives of any oil drilling - no more and no less. There is literally zero evidence of any problems from fracking that are any different from regular oil drilling.

3. Oil and it's products and benefits have helped cut global poverty in half over the last 40 years, increase life spans and quality of living around the world and lift mankind to a level of comfort and security never before seen in the history of the world.

willy88 (anonymous profile)
July 31, 2013 at 10:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ludwig's research is important, I hope readers go to his report. While the petroleum industry has indeed been shooting all kinds of stuff, including water, down into wells, "fracking" as we know it over the last few years is certainly an "experimental" technology. Yeah, Willy, it certainly does get us more oil, but the downstream effect is unknown, which qualifies this pernicious technology as "experimental". Ha, and we're experimenting on a lot of species beyond our own!
Rather than give ridiculous praise to the parasitic oil industry, let's reinstate a windfall profits tax on the petroleum companies, with the billions raised spent to mitigate some of the horrors they've inflicted on our earth.
I was here and on the beach working with oil-soaked birds during the 1969 blowout, don't tell us "Oil and it's [sic] products and benefits have helped cut global poverty and ... increase life spans and quality of living around the world" !! Hogwash. I'm guessing you have some ties to that industry.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2013 at 4:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How DrDan, who obviously knows nothing about geology, well completion techniques, elastic properties of rocks, drilling engineering, or fluid flow in porous high P-T media, can say that tracking is experimental is beyond me. There is a difference, DrDan, between concluding that something is experimental from a body of evidence, versus just believing it because of your political persuasion. Do you see the difference? You're thinking with your glands, not your brain.

DrDan's second paragraph is just plain silly. It's a diatribe on conspiracy theory and supposedly evil people out to destroy the planet. He's obviously not a serious person.

The fact is, it's a difficult and dangerous business to bring DrDan the oil he demands to survive. When a mistake is made, it's big news, and, although I know people in DrDan's industry are perfect, in the oil industry people do sometimes make errors. To a small and bigoted mind, I suppose this translates into intent to inflict harm. But that's not the case, any more than one can say that the airline industry is evil whenever a plane crashes (or hundreds of other examples).

I wonder what DrDan thinks would happen to world poverty if we stopped fossil fuels immediately. He can go gather data to find out! Go talk to farmers in developing nations and advise them that they can no longer use fossil fuels to raise and deliver their products to market in trucks or train. Go to some large urban centers and inform people that there will be no more food in markets or restaurants unless they are delivered without the use of fossil fuels.

Finally DrDan closes with a note of hubris. No one, he implies, could possibly disagree with him unless they're being paid off!

DrDan knows nothing about the oil industry, nothing about the way it works, and perhaps most importantly, nothing about the half million people or so that work in it. But he's sure all of these people are bad to the bone. Does this attitude sound familiar? It's prejudice, and it's bigotry. Only in many people's minds, DrDan's included, it's politically OK to be prejudiced against certain people.

DrDan, get some data, analyze it, create some hypotheses and test them with the data, and then make your case. How many cases of pollution due to fracking are documented? Do oil companies set oil prices? Do they destroy the environment for fun? Ask questions and don't assume the answers. But I don't think you're going to do this, because you can't. You have no expertise, and no predilection to objective thinking. The movement of oil molecules in the ground are for you a political question, not a scientific one. So you comment on grammatical errors instead.

The problem is, too many people, like our DrDan, do not take the time to think, to analyze, to test hypotheses... they simply believe, and the foundation for their belief is merely their ideology.

swimmer (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2013 at 3:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

yes, I have very little expertise in petroleum geology, swimmer. You write, "You have no expertise, and no predilection to objective thinking". You are shrill in your hyperbole when writing about how awful it would be if we "stopped fossil fuels immediately", which I wouldn't write.
Educate yourself, swimmer, here's a site to try:

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2013 at 3:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

An EPA draft report last year suggested hydraulic fracturing led to contaminated groundwater near Pavillion, Wyoming: US Environmental Protection Agency. Investigation of Ground Water Contamination near Pavillion, Wyoming (EPA, 2011). available at
Read up on this swimmer, and try getting off your high horse. The problem is, too many people, like our swimming friend, do not take the time to think, to analyze, to test hypotheses...

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2013 at 3:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

oh, you meant fracking, not "tracking" [sic] in your first sentence, swimmer.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2013 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)


The predicted response: an ad hominem attack. Someone who disagrees with you is labeled a shill. It must be so!

"You are shrill in your hyperbole when writing about how awful it would be if we "stopped fossil fuels immediately", which I wouldn't write. "

Whether I'm shrill or not, or what the character of my writing style might be, is irrelevant. What's relevant is what would happen to the poor (and everyone else) if fossil fuels were shut off tomorrow. You dodge the obvious consequences and prefer to comment on style. Impressive.

The first link you supplied is written by people as equally uninformed as you are. Anyone can find a link written by like minded people that will support what they think. This is called conformation bias.

For example, references in the links you quoted....

You stopped at the nugget you thought supported you. You failed to search further, or go beyond 2011 for some reason. You would have found out that the EPA has withdrawn its claim on pollution at Pavilion and handed the study over to the State of Wyoming. The EPA's methodology and findings were criticized by many, including the state of Wyoming, the BLM, and the USGS. You can, of course, as all good ideologues do, claim that the EPA was bribed or some equivalent. What else can you do?

Dimrock, PA.
In May of 2012 the EPA determined that the drinking water at Dimrock was not contaminated. Although one staffer reportedly disagreed, this at least indicates that there is no consensus, let alone proof, that hydraulic fracturing has contaminated the aquifers there. Yet uninformed people like yourself and bloggers you visit keep referring to this as a sort of lightning rod, a smoking gun that fracking is dangerous.

The Duke study.
Another study often quoted by you and your fellow dilettantes. The fact is, the researchers did not have well deviation surveys and as a result did not know where the well bores went below the surface, and could not link observed methane to fracturing. The evidence in fact points strongly to casing corrosion, as methane impurity contours were circular and centered on the wellbores at the surface. But such corrosion can happen anywhere - whether a well is fracked or not. They said in the report that they found no evidence for fracture fluid in any aquifers in the study area. In a follow up study this year, they repeated: no evidence for fracture fluids in the aquifer. No matter. Ideologues will still reference the work, because rather than using data to determine the conclusion, they conclude and then seek data to support them. And besides, not having the expertise to understand the technical details of the paper, they can blissfully ignore inconvenient conclusions.

So this is the limit of your "analysis:" ignoring science (what else can you do?) and going to ideological websites. And of course, pointing out typos.

swimmer (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2013 at 11:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

By the way, DrDan, I wonder if you have ever pondered the following questions in reading about an alleged case of aquifer contamination.

What percentage of wells have contaminated the subsurface? Locally? Nationwide?
What is the probability of a conventional well polluting an aquifer? A fracked well?
Does the local geology have anything to do with the risks?
Does well construction have anything to do with the contamination, as opposed to fracking itself?
Do surface operations have an impact? Was the contamination caused by a truck spill, or a worker accidentally knocking over a drum of fluids?
Can the risks be mitigated by restricting fracking to certain locations or depths?
Are certain companies acting illegally or irresponsibly? Is there a question of enforcement?

No , you haven't thought about anything like this, because you're too poorly informed to even ask the questions, and too closed minded to give them serious thought. For you it's black and white. Find one case of pollution out of 1.1 million wells in 40 years, and you say "these are bad people, shut 'em down." I wonder why you don't say this for every industry that has an accident. We don't ground the airline industry when one crashes. We build black boxes and research ways to improve safety. We don't ban hospitals when there's a case of malpractice, and accuse all doctors of incompetence. We investigate, enforce, punish, and try to prevent.

I'm sure you don't advocate junk science when it comes to global warming; why do you embrace it in the case of fracking?

swimmer (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2013 at 11:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What do the experts say?

Lisa Jackson, former head of the EPA, testified before congress last year that she didn't know of a single case where fracking had contaminated an aquifer.

Dr. Steven Chu, former head of the DOE and a Nobel Prize winning physicist, is on record as saying that fracking could be done safely.

The UK's Royal Academy of Engineers, in a report released in June 2012, studied actively developing shale play areas where fracturing was heavily used. They reviewed reservoir depth, aquifer depth, and propagated fracture length for hundreds of wells. Their conclusion?

"The available evidence indicates that this
risk is very low provided that shale gas extraction takes place at depths of many hundreds of metres or several kilometres [which it does or can be limited to]. Geological mechanisms constrain the distances that fractures may propagate vertically. Even if communication with overlying aquifers were possible, suitable pressure conditions would still be necessary for contaminants to to flow through fractures. More likely causes of possible environmental contamination include faulty wells, and leaks and spills associated with surface operations. Neither cause is unique to shale gas. Both are common to all oil and gas wells and extractive activities." In other words, wells that are fracked pose no more risk to aquifers than conventional wells do.

Finally what about the people who should know best? Let's consider the geologists who study aquifers for a living. These are scientists, geologists who are unaffiliated with the oil industry. They work for government agencies, academia, and environmental remediation firms. Their professional society is called the National Groundwater Association, or NGWA. What do they say in their position paper on the subject?

"NGWA recognizes that hydraulic fracturing of and gas wells is a mature technology and has been a widespread practice for many decades. While no widespread water quality or quantity issues have been definitively documented that are attributable to hydraulic fracturing and related activities at oil and gas well sites, there have been isolated cases where faulty casing installations (including poor cement bonds) or poor management of materials/chemicals at the surface are suspected as having negatively impacted groundwater, surface water, or water wells."

swimmer (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2013 at 11:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In the end, it depends on the geology of the area and the integrity of the company.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2013 at 12:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

swimmer never jokes, s/he just swims on.
I never used the term "shill", swimmer, you did. Yes, you make some good points. Yet you still keep this ridiculous proposition out there since you need it to make your weak case: [what] "would happen to the poor (and everyone else) if fossil fuels were shut off tomorrow." No one is suggesting that, get off that point.
Try supplying specific web references, like I did.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2013 at 6:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Wow, quoting a couple of hacks like Stephen Chu and Lisa Jackson on the "safety" of fracking? You're joking, right?"

Your ad hom attacks on Chu and Jackson are based on.....?
Interesting concept, to call a Nobel Prize winner a hack. I suspect, spiritwalker, that Dr. Chu understands the physical concepts relevant to fracking far better than you do.

Of course, you ignore the Royal Academy of Engineering's report and the NGWA position. The report is too complicated for you to read, and the NGWA conclusions violates your political persuasion. So why not ignore them... what else can you do, debate the issue on technical merits? You have on expertise to do that, so... ad hom attacks. Impressive!

swimmer (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2013 at 1:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You da Man, Ken!!!

GandG (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Yet you still keep this ridiculous proposition out there since you need it to make your weak case: [what] "would happen to the poor (and everyone else) if fossil fuels were shut off tomorrow." No one is suggesting that, get off that point."

This is not a point that I place any particular evidence on. In your original post you disregarded the benefits that oil has brought to the world. You claim that a major spill once every generation far outweighs the benefits.

Many people think that the only benefits oil provides comes only in the form of gasoline. They don't realize that oil permeates the modern world, providing benefits that enable such things as fertilizers; crop raising; food processing and delivery; power to extract and deliver raw materials used in construction; product assembly and delivery; transportation in all forms; feedstock for plastics, etc. Everyone uses all of these products directly and indirectly on a daily basis, but they want to criticize those who provide them the materials that make their lifestyles possible.

Why do they do this? I don't know. Perhaps you can explain it to me. I have heard lots of criticisms of the industry by people like yourself, but have never heard anyone back it up with rational, well thought out arguments backed by data. The thought process seems to go like this: "I don't like high gas prices... someone must be guilty.... I remember some big spills.... someone must be incompetent or causing them intentionally.... they make big profits in some years..... therefore I hate oil companies." It's a sort of nationally tolerated, even encouraged, prejudice.

The URL's are easy to find if you were really interested in learning.
Try googling "Royal Academy of Engineering hydraulic fracturing"

Here it is:

You could have also found the NGWA's position paper quite easily.

Here it is:

I normally don't supply URL's to people with ideologically based views on science, because I know they won't be read. These people are not interested in analyzing facts, data, or evidence, usually because they don't have the skills or inclination to do so. Maybe you're different.

If you're going to supply websites, make them objective and appropriate sites. Personally, I don't seek my medical news from Car and Driver Magazine, and wouldn't go to activist fringe sites, whose writers are strongly biased and have no requisite expertise, for information on geology and well engineering.

Most of the public gets their information on fracking from celebrities and activist groups that have no expertise, or from politicians who, aware of this and seeking votes, issue more of same. The dumbing down of the US continues apace. We take positions on technical issues like climate and tracking based on political persuasion. We ignore evidence.

swimmer (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2013 at 2:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

here's about the only place we can concur: "The dumbing down of the US continues apace." Think about it.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2013 at 2:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"here's about the only place we can concur: "The dumbing down of the US continues apace." Think about it."

DrDan, you have no expertise. I have a Master's degree in geology. I've thought about it, thank you very much for your advice though. Can you also give me advice on other topics you know nothing about? Your knowledge of geology, fluid flow in porous media, and well engineering are about the same as your knowledge of subatomic particles. Why should I listen to your views on either? Think about it, indeed. What hubris.

When you have a body of of knowledge without any evidence to support it, you have a belief, a religion. Not a conclusion.

swimmer (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2013 at 2:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Short: Now a confidential report obtained by the Associated Press and interviews with company representatives show that the EPA had scientific evidence against the driller, Range Resources, but changed course after the company threatened not to cooperate with a national study into a common form of drilling called hydraulic fracturing. Regulators set aside an analysis that concluded the drilling could have been to blame for the contamination.


morgainele (anonymous profile)
August 5, 2013 at 3:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@swimmer, morgainele has refuted your balderdash about the EPA charge vs. Pavillion (WY) being withdrawn [your post Aug. 1, 11:21 pm]: see which morgainele has left for your perusal.
Ooh, hey, you have an MA in geology thus know everything about the earth depths...this is called scientism, read up on it swimmer.
Scientific hubris is just as destructive as religious hubris.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 5, 2013 at 6:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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