Monday, June 30, 2014

The fracas over "fracking"

Anti-Fracking Rally in Long Beach, CA

Howdy friends and neighbors of the hills!

Well folks, another summer is upon us and it's high time I gave y'all an update on what's been happening here in Montebello.  There's a lot to catch up on so I'll do my best to give y'all the Reader's Digest version.


Waaaaaay back in January, the California Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (aka:  "DOGGR")  held a public meeting in Long Beach to discuss their draft regulations for well stimulation.  A whole lotta Sierra Club folks turned out for the rally/meeting including several of our own members of the Save the Montebello Hills Task Force to provide public comments.  A "lively"(with the exception of Mr. Skeleton above!) anti-fracking rally took place outside the meeting location.

Here are two of the news stories about this meeting:

"Fracking protested at Cal State Long Beach"

"Protesters Rally For Fracking Ban At CSU Long Beach"

Now folks, y'all gotta remember that according to a letter written by Plains Exploration and Production (PXP), the former owners of the Montebello Hills (now Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas), no "fracking" has happened in the Montebello Hills.

Yeah, riiiiiiiiight!  I reckon that depends on your definition of the word "fracking!"  See folks, PXP claimed there hasn't been any conventional fracturing or high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) going on in the hills but they admitted a few wells underwent something called high rate gravel packing (aka: frac packing.)

So what exactly is "high rate gravel packing" or "frac packing?"   GOOD QUESTION!!!

Let's go straight to the experts hired by PXP for that explanation.

C. Hybrid Fracture Treatments: Hybrid treatments are a type of hydraulic fracturing treatments (not high-rate gravel pack) that combine the advantages and benefits of both conventional gel and high volume hydraulic fracture treatments. They were developed in the early 2000s to improve stimulation effectiveness. In hybrid treatments, low-viscosity and hydraulic fracture treatment fluids with friction reducing additives are used initially to create the fracture and then followed by a high-viscosity gelled fluid to place the high-concentrations of larger sized proppant.  pp. 49-50

Frac Packs

In the Baldwin Hills, the majority of the wells are completed using frac packs. This process is different from the hydraulic fracturing stimulation techniques used for tight sands, gas shale and coal gas recovery.

The frac pack completion technique involves two distinct injection stages performed in a single step that are discussed in Section 9.

The frac packs will be referred to as “high-rate gravel packs (HRGP)” in this report. 

Note: Please refer to section 9 for additional details and discussion on "high-rate gravel pack treatments”.  p. 51

[From Section 9]

The HRGP completion technique involves two distinct injection stages
performed in a single step.

The first stage creates a hydraulic crack and terminates its growth by tip screenout. The second stage involves continuous injection of high concentration slurry after the screenout, resulting in inflation and packing of the gravel pack through the near wellbore area to the production zone (Fan and Llave, 1996). These treatments are pumped down the tubing/casing annulus and have a wire wrapped screen installed in the well. p. 109

Source:  Inglewood Oil Field Hydraulic Fracturing Report, Halliburton

Now if y'all are confused about the difference between a hydraulic fracture and a hydraulic crack , y'all are not alone! To make matters worse, go back and read my last post on the Global Frackdown 2013 and try to figure out the difference between all of these:

High pressure gravel packing
Used to describe "a type of fracking by the oil industry and experts"
being conducted by PXP in the Baldwin Hills 
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County,
Second District, Baldwin Hills Community Standards District Settlement, July 5, 2011
Small scale fracking
Used by the Water Replenishment District to describe high rate gravel packing.
Fracture packing
Found on a resume of a PXP employee who co-authored the engineering paper which described frac packing as "a hybrid process that stimulates a reservoir by hydraulically fracturing the formation and accomplishes an annular gravel pack in a single operation."
This here confusion is why the Save the Montebello Hills Task Force has been attending all these meetings by DOGGR and other local government's CONFUSING!


In February, the City of Los Angeles Planning & Land Use Management Committee (PLUM for short) voted to consider passing along a "Consideration of Fracking Moratorium" to the LA City Council.  A few days later, the city voted to take "the first step toward putting a stop to hydraulic fracturing and other similar drilling methods that energy companies use to extract petroleum and natural gas."

This sure did ruffle the feathers of the oil and gas industry and especially Freeport McMoRan!

Hance V. Myers III, a vice president at Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas, a company with drilling operations in Los Angeles, said in a statement that the moratorium's "generic scope" could halt "even routine well maintenance activities needed to ensure the mechanical integrity of wells and maintain conventional oil production.
Source: "L.A. Takes Big Step Toward Fracking Moratorium" KCET

Members of the Save the Montebello Hills Task Force were on hand to witness this historic vote!


Did y'all feel the 5.1 earthquake on Friday, March 28?  The poor folks living near the quake's epicenter in Brea, CA sure won't forget it!  They're still reeling from the more than 100 aftershocks that seem to keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny! 

Here are a few of the news stories about the quakes:

Quake swarm topped by magnitude 5.1 temblor rattles L.A. region
Los Angeles Times

4.1 temblor shakes OC one day after quake rattles region
Orange County Register

More than 100 aftershocks rattle Calif. after strong quake
USA Today

It  didn't take long for folks to start wondering if  "fracking" in the nearby Brea Olinda oilfield had a hand in causing all these quakes.

Two La Habra Quakes Centered Around Fracking Wells: Did Fracking Cause La Habra Quake? (pictures, maps, video)
Before It's News

Cal Tech Professor: Fracking Causes Earthquakes

Fracking may be inducing earthquakes where they shouldn't be
Los Angeles Times

Folks in Brea have been understandable upset by the "whole lotta shaking going on" in their neighborhood so on April 10, their local Sierra Club group held a public meeting on "Fracking and Other Oil & Gas Dangers" to discuss what the heck might be going on.  The meeting featured Dr. Tom Williams.  Of course, there was a whole passel of Sierra Club members at this meeting including 3 members of the Save the Montebello Hills Task Force but the room was filled to capacity with anxious members of the general public.

When asked about the fracking taking place in Brea and if it might have anything to do with the earthquakes, Dr. Williams expressed some concern about the shallowness of a few of the quakes and their close proximity to oil and gas wells.  Dr. Williams is scheduled to speak about this issue again on July 19th in Brea.

Could such a thing happen here in Montebello?  I'll get back to this later.*


I suppose all the commotion about the LA City fracking moratorium must've really spooked the head honchos over at Freeport McMoRan.  John Martini and Candace Salway, both employees of Freeport McMoRan, made a rare appearance at the Montebello City Council meeting on April 9.  Ms. Salway didn't say anything during the meeting, but Mr. Martini addressed the council during public orals.

Below is an unofficial transcript of Mr. Martini's 3 minute public oral before the Montebello City Council:


Interesting, mighty interesting.  If Freeport isn't doing any "fracking" in the hills then why would they send not one, but two o' their "top guns" to Montebello?  Kinda makes you wonder don't it?


On May 28, Mr. Martini came back for an encore performance before the Montebello City Council.  This time, he informed the council about 6 brand spanking new wells that had been drilled in the Montebello Hills.  Four of these wells, two oil/gas production and two waterfloods, are located just above Plaza Drive.  The other two oil/gas wells are below Plaza Dr.

Folks who were at the meeting say Mr. Martini seemed to be knocked a bit off balance when this news was met with questions from the council about any possible health or safety issues.

Then Mr. Martini's evening took a definite turn for the worse.

A member of the Save the Montebello Hills Task Force stepped up to the speaker's podium to give a response to Mr. Martini's previous public oral.  She presented a bound copy of a 10 page refutation of his remarks (footnotes and all!) to each of the city council members, the city administrator and the city clerk!

Tsk, tsk Mr. Martini!  You should've known somebody might fact check your comments! 

The next speaker was Dr. Tom Williams, geologist and retired oil/gas expert with an imposing "curriculum vitae."  He's become a well-known "thorn in the side" for Freeport McMoRan operations throughout the L.A. basin.  His comments were a bit on the "technical" side but still, very impressive.

Then, coincidence stepped into the ring for one final jab at Mr. Martini.  The last "public oral" of the night was delivered by City Clerk Daniel Hernandez.  Mr. Hernandez has gotten into the habit of keeping the council updated on all the California public record act requests (CPRA) made since the last council meeting.  On this occasion, Mr. Hernandez reported that his office had filled a CPRA made by the Save the Montebello Hills Task Force regarding any new well permits for the Montebello Hills Oilfield!  (So much for Mr. Martini's attempt to beat the task force to the punch!)

Ya know, I almost feel sorry for that fella ...but then again...naaaaah!!!!!


Still with me?  This blog update is almost done, I promise!

Montebello isn't the only place with a whole lotta questions for the oil and gas industry.  Folks all over the southland are facing similar issues and have similar concerns.  Below is a flyer for a much more recent event sponsored by folks living in the Gardena/Compton area of Los Angeles.

LA Seismic, the company that conducted the Rosecrans 3D Imaging Project in the Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council (HGNNC) area of Los Angeles also conducted the Montebello Seismic Project back in August 2013.   Unless y'all are one of the folks who live or work along North Montebello Blvd it's likely y'all have no idea such a project took place.  The seismic imaging company's public information website vanished off the internet just as fast as it appeared, so much for informing the public!

The seismic imaging company said the purpose behind these studies was to “analyze fault zones in the region and, from data gathered, gain a better understanding of natural resources such as oil and water.” In Montebello, the project was paid for by Sempra Energy (aka: The Gas Company.)

In the HGNNC, the project was paid for by BreitBurn Energy Partners.

A student from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication reported:

Murmurs of the “F” word began to circulate in the Harbor Gateway after a fleet of seismic survey trucks made their way through streets around the intersection of Rosecrans Avenue and Interstate 110 late last summer. The Other "F" Word: Fracking Spooks the Harbor Gateway By Jenna Pittaway

Unlike Montebello, the HGNNC was well aware of the seismic project that vibrated along their streets.

Rosalie Preston spoke about the Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council which discussed damage to homes from the “Rosecrans 3D Imaging Project” testing by LA Seismic starting last August. During the testing there was cracking of interior and exterior plaster, driveways cracked, block walls fell down and black oil came up in one woman's bathtub. Residents suspect that all of the damage was triggered by the sound wave imaging. The Neighborhood Council is still investigating the issue.Gardena Valley Democratic Club, Monday, February 17, 2014
Yikes!  There were no reports of such damage here in Montebello but that may be because the survey area was smaller and most of the route along Montebello Blvd follows the edge of the Montebello Hills oilfield with more "cushion space" between nearby homes and businesses.

Ripley's "Believe it or Not" Double Take Moment o' the Day

At the end of the HGNNC Town Hall meeting, a small group of folks from the Montebello/East LA area were approached by Diane Ripley, the PR spokesperson for LA Seismic.  After an awkward start to the conversation, she listened to the group's complaint about the quick disappearance of the Montebello Seismic Project webpage. She said the company had provided informational flyers to affected businesses and homeowners along the route and she'd spoken to each and every one of our city council members about the project.

She continued to listen politely as the folks from Montebello told her about the Montebello Fault that runs east to west across the northern half of the Montebello Hills oilfield and under Montebello Blvd.  This fault was documented in official records for the Monterey Park Operating Industries Incorporated (OII) superfund site and the Gas Company's Decommissioning Report for the Montebello Gas Storage Facility but the fault wasn't mentioned as a possible public safety issue for the Montebello Hills Specific Plan.  She kept on listening when the group agreed it would be a wonderful thing to get new, scientific information about this fault.

Then Ms. Ripley did the unexpected, she cooed that she too was a "community activist" and offered to get the seismic imaging information from Sempra Energy!

Ms. Ripley's offer was conveyed to the Montebello City Council on June 25, 2014.   The ball's in your court council!

*Now about those quakes in Brea and the question, "Could it happen here?"

Go back and take a closer look at that transcript of Mr. Martini's comments, did y'all notice how he talked about a report written by the National Academy of Sciences but he never did say the actual name of that report?   Well here it is:


On page 35 is a reference to a 1991 article written by Arthur McGarr, a geologist with the USGS.  The title of the article is:

On a possible connection between three major earthquakes in California and oil production

If that title sounds familiar you may have read about it here.  In a nutshell, the three oilfields Mr. McGarr writes about are Coalinga, Kettleman and Montebello.

According to Mr. McGarr, there is a possibility that activities in the Montebello oilfield triggered the deadly 5.9, 1987 Whittier Narrows Earthquake!!!!

Folks with all this uncertainty about what is REALLY happening in our beloved Montebello Hills I'm more convinced than ever that allowing a developer to build homes smack dab in the middle of an active oilfield is just plain crazy!

I'm leaving y'all with this catchy ditty from a few years back.  I owe a heap o' thanks to the hardworking folks over at the Sierra Club's Fracking, Oil and Gas Committee for reminding me about this little gem.

Daisy Mae

My Water's On Fire Tonight
(The Fracking Song)

No comments:

Post a Comment