California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Oil, Gas Company Says Fracking Is Misunderstood

Aera Energy, one of California’s largest oil and gas producers, visited California Lutheran University on Nov. 13 to educate geology students on the dynamics of hydraulic fracturing.

Michele Newell, public affairs specialist for Aera Energy, said there are misconceptions regarding what hydraulic fracturing is, what it does and why it is used. Newell said it is important for students to learn from experts who work in the field as opposed to relying on information found online.

โ€œIt is a technical subject, but something we hope students can get their minds around,โ€ Newell said. โ€œNot everything they hear on social media and in the actual media is the truth, so we like to present our facts since we actually perform the process.โ€

According to the California Independent Petroleum Association, hydraulic fracturing is a method used to obtain oil and natural gas from shale rock located below the earthโ€™s surface. The process involves the combination of water, sand and additional ingredients used to create spaces in underground rock for oil and gas production.

โ€œOnce an oil or natural gas well is drilled and properly lined with steel casing, fluids are pumped down to an isolated portion of the well at pressures high enough to cause cracks in the rock formation thousands of feet below the earthโ€™s surface,โ€ said an article written by the Western States Petroleum Association. โ€œThese cracks or fractures allow oil and natural gas to flow more freely.โ€

According to Aera Energy, hydraulic fracturing has been practiced for decades without any harmful impacts to either groundwater or the environment. In California, hydraulic fracturing has been efficiently and safely used for over 60 years. Despite this, some people still fear hydraulic fracturing is harmful.

โ€œThere is a myth in the general public that hydraulic fracturing fluid is toxic, which is not accurate,โ€ said Halliburton District Technology Manager Patrick Niebuhr.

Niebuhr said we are exposed to these chemicals on a regular basis and do not even realize it.

โ€œWater and sand makes up over 99ย percent of fracturing fluid. A wide range of chemicals, many of which are found in household products and even food that we consume, composes the other one percent or less of the fluid,โ€ Niebuhr said.

Additional concerns regarding the use of hydraulic fracturing include the contamination of groundwater, methane and air pollution, workplace safety and an increase in seismic activity. According to Aera Energy, hydraulic fracturing does not negatively impact the environment, drinking water or pose any kind of threat to the health of residents.

โ€œThere is no evidence of any adverse impacts to groundwater resources caused by hydraulic fracturing in California and it has never been linked to any health or environmental harm,โ€ said Niebuhr during his presentation.

Mike Sansinena, senior production engineer for Aera Energy, said earthquakes are a frequent natural occurrence in California and can be linked to a variety of causes โ€“ however, he said oil production is not one of them.

โ€œThe California Council on Science and Technology studied well stimulation in California and reported that there is no evidence linking hydraulic fracturing to โ€˜induced seismicityโ€™ or earthquakes caused by human activity,โ€ Sansinena said.

According to Aera Energy, California produces close to 200 million barrels of oil each year and roughly 37 percent of that oil is used in the state every day. The remaining 67 percent is imported from foreign countries and other states in the U.S.

โ€œOil produced in California provides a secure, affordable supply of energy for our cars, businesses and homes,โ€ Sansinena said. โ€œForeign oil subjects us to energy shortages and price spikes and makes us dependent on foreign countries for our energy.โ€

According to the California Independent Petroleum Association, hydraulic fracturing provides vital domestic oil resources by allowing companies such as Aera to produce oil from hard-to-reach geological formations.

โ€œHydraulic fracturing or fracking is an important tool,โ€ Sansinena said. โ€œIt allows us to reach oil in reservoirs that would otherwise be unreachable.โ€

In addition to providing resources, hydraulic fracturing also greatly impacts the economy. According to Aera, the oil and gas industry is responsible for more than 368,000 jobs in California. Furthermore, Californiaโ€™s central coast earns $729.8 million from the oil and gas industry in local tax revenues. Aera Energyโ€™s operations alone generate close to $200 million dollars each year.

โ€œCalifornia-produced oil means high-paying jobs for Californians and billions of dollars in tax revenue, which supports schools and allows counties to hire more fire and law enforcement personnel, among other things,โ€ Sansinena said.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California oil is important because it enables energy independence and makes in-state production less expensive.

Niebuhr said hydraulic fracturing, combined with horizontal drilling, has led to the development of unconventional resources, which has brought inexpensive, reliable energy to the global market.

โ€œNo matter where you live, you benefit from the oil and gas produced through the use of technology like hydraulic fracturing,” Niebuhr said.

Christie Kurdys

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