Does injecting 1,000’s of gallons of hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acid into oil or gas wells sound like a good idea to YOU? It certainly does NOT sound like a well though out plan in OUR minds!
Experts from commercial gas suppliers in the gas and oil extraction industry refer to the practice of pumping huge volumes of acidic solution(s) deep into the ground for the purpose of liberating fossil fuels as ‘acidification’.
Would it shock you to learn that this fossil fuel extraction technique, much like hydraulic fracturing, has very few regulations governing its use? In fact, one could argue that the oil & gas industry as a whole right now has very few regulations governing its behavior… but we prefer to leave those sorts of discussions to folks far better versed in environmental law.
How does acidification work?
From what we have read so far, the acid dissolves weaker, less dense areas of underground shale formations and creates new pathways through which highly prized fossil fuels find their way into a gas/oil well’s collection apparatus.
Potential perils of acidification?
First, let’s briefly discuss the possible harm that acids may do to a person: 1) burns; 2) skin, eye and respiratory irritation; 3) skin, eye and respiratory irritation damage; 4) consumption may result in permanent organ damage; 5) extreme exposure may result in death.
With that out of the way, in no particular order and certainly not to serve as a final list, below you will find some of the objections folks have raised when debating the safety and practicality of acidification:
- Large amounts of corrosive material would need to get hauled up to well pads and drilling areas by truck and a simple traffic accident would have devastating effects on anything immediately around the crash site.
- That same large volume of corrosive materials would need to get stored in tanks at the well pad before use and a simple plumbing failure could result in a leak that allows environmentally hazardous material to flow freely into the environment.
- Although some experts in the field of oil extraction have claimed that nearly all of the water/fluids forced into the ground get recovered and that any remaining traces do no harm to the environment, we believe ANY remnants of hazardous materials in the ground sounds like too many. As with hydraulic fracturing, we have only just BEGUN to do in-depth testing to determine the long term effects of gas/oil extraction activities involving acidification.
- And finally… what will happen to the waste water stream once pumped back to the surface? How and more importantly WHERE will all of that tainted, and quite possibly very corrosive, water get reclaimed? Will the gas/oil companies have to truck all that stuff back through the countryside and (again) risk a simple traffic accident that could send thousands of gallons of highly polluted water rushing unchecked into the environment?
In all honesty, we barely touched on the topic of acidification — because of our current lack of knowledge on the topic — so if you would like to learn more, please read an article called Beyond Fracking: Is California Being Pumped Full of Acid?. It does a good job of explaining the process without getting too technical and also discusses the history of acidification in California as well as the efforts of some to pull in the reigns and put an end to acidification in California.
Moral of the story?
If you read the article we linked to above you will learn that acidification did not start yesterday. It actually started quite a while back and for the most part it took place under a veil of secrecy. For the longest time it seems as though no one required the gas/oil companies to disclose all the details of how they went about the business of getting fossils fuels as long as the fuels kept flowing and they paid their tax bills promptly.
This means, just like in most other situations where water quality for the masses butts heads with the interests and profitability of big business, the TRUE responsibility for making sure safe drinking water flows into a home falls on the shoulders of the homeowner.
For that reason (and a host of others) we, like so many others in our industry, suggest that owners of private wells have their water tested by a qualified, certified drinking water testing lab at least once a year — and more frequently if naturally occurring events (i.e. flooding, drought, etc.) or events caused by man (i.e. hydraulic fracturing, acidification, etc.) take place near a drinking water well.
Please remember that at the end of the day, “It’s your water, your health… and ultimately your LIFE!”