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The Possibilities of Measure P


At night I can see the lighted oil rigs in the Solomon hills above our Los Alamos ranch, and I worry. Could a well failure contaminate our precious San Antonio Groundwater Basin?

“Loss of zonal isolation” (that is, the bad stuff goes where it shouldn’t) happens. If it happens in our groundwater basin, the consequences could be devastating for our town, our agriculture, and our tourism industries.

For me and my ranch, it would be “game over.”

Measure P proposes to ban fracking, cyclic steam injection, and acidization, techniques for increasing the amount of oil that can be recovered. How risky are these techniques? A 2008 conference paper by three Chevron engineers partly answers the question. Published by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, it studied casing failures in 370 Chevron wells in a Kern County steam injection project. The authors found that casing failures occurred in about 1 out of every 5 wells. That’s a lot of failures.

To be fair, a casing failure does not necessarily result in a leak into the water table. But compared to conventional oil recovery techniques, this failure rate is high, so it’s also fair to say the risk of groundwater contamination is higher, too.

The producer gets a little more oil out of the ground, and I get an increased risk of groundwater contamination. I don’t like that equation. That’s why I’m voting yes on Measure P.

I’ll still worry, but maybe not as much.

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