‘Acidizing’ oil wells — bigger than fracking?

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Anyone following the spread of fracking in California should check out an interesting — and frustrating — report this week from former San Francisco Chronicle journalist Rob Collier.

It’s about “acidizing,” an oil production technique that involves pouring large amounts of hydrofluoric or hydrochloric acid down wells. Collier argues that it could be more effective than hydraulic fracturing as a way to unlock the Monterey Shale, an immense rock formation beneath central California that could hold more than 15 billion barrels of oil.

Poll: Californians support fracturing for its economic benefits

The report, issued by the Next Generation think tank, gives a good introduction to the process and its potential dangers. It does not offer any hard data on how often oil companies are using acidization to wrest oil from the Monterey Shale. Hence the frustration mentioned above.

But that’s one of Collier’s main points. We know very little about how common this practice is in California. State senators didn’t fare much better when they held a hearing on acidization in June.

The practice would receive more scrutiny under a bill from Sen. Fran Pavley to tighten regulations on fracking. The bill would trigger a state study on the potential risks of fracking and other well stimulation techniques, including acidization.

Study: Fracking may boost California economy 14 percent

But the bill is facing a tough fight in the legislature. And it has also come under attack from some of Pavley’s allies in the environmental community. On Monday, activists from MoveOn.org and CREDO will gather at Pavley’s district office in Calabasas to urge the senator to withdraw her bill and push for a fracking ban instead.

“Sen. Pavley thinks regulation will protect the environment and the public,” said activist and organizer Lauren Steiner, in a press release announcing Monday’s action. “But regulations cannot make fracking safe.”

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