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Think Fracking Is Bad? Wait Until You Hear about the Gas Industry's "Acid Jobs"

It is a 'scandal' how little the public knows about 'rock melting' extraction process

Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

A pumpjack drills for oil in the Monterey Shale, California, April 29, 2013. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Think fracking is bad? You should know about 'acid jobs,' environmental groups are warning.

'Acid jobs,' a highly toxic method of fossil fuel extraction, have gone vastly unregulated by lawmakers, particularly in California where the method is commonly used.

An 'acid job' is a process whereby companies pump chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid into an already built gas and oil well to "melt rocks" and objects that are obstructing oil flow.

"These are super-hazardous, poisonous chemicals and we have no idea what they are doing out there with it - how deep it is going, the volumes - nothing," said Bill Allayaud of the Environmental Working Group. "Why shouldn't our state agency be regulating it as we hope they'll be regulating hydraulic fracturing?"

Acid jobs differ from fracking in that the chemicals are used to quickly eat away at rock and debris formations. Alternatively, fracking blasts away rock formations with a toxic concoction of water and chemicals.

Both processes are widely used and highly toxic, and the long-term environmental damage from each are equally untold.

Companies are currently not required to report when they perform acid jobs and the process has mostly sneaked by while fracking has garnered widespread international criticism.

The method is particularly pervasive in California's Monterey oil formation, the largest shale reserve in the United States.

As Reuters reports:

Occidental Petroleum Corp, which is leading the way on Monterey development, said in 2011 it was mainly using acid jobs to get at the shale, and Occidental said this month that only a sixth of its California wells were fracked.

Venoco, a company well known for running California offshore operations near Santa Barbara and a driller of many onshore wells, estimated a few years ago that more than eight out of 10 Monterey wells could be completed with acid jobs alone.

Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, told Reuters that it is a "scandal" how little the public knows about the use of acid at well sites.

"Taking hydrofluoric acid and injecting it into the ground and changing the geology down there is a big concern," she said, especially if the acid was to migrate underground. "We should not have this activity going on until we know those risks."


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