The PXP Inglewood Oil Field Hydraulic Fracturing Study / Baldwin Hills Fracking Study claim that fracking is safe doesn’t hold up to science. The Fracking study was paid for by the oil company Plains Exploration & Production (PXP). PXP got its money’s worth. The disputed fracking study makes no attempt to be impartial.
The settlement agreement that PXP made with community groups required a study on fracking in the Inglewood oil field only be submitted to the public. It doesn’t need to be evaluated by a government agency, or independent local experts.
The fracking study claims that fracking operations in the Inglewood Oil Field pose “no adverse impacts” to the community or to the environment. It asserts that fracking around a fault line would not cause earthquakes. These conclusions have been questioned by the communities and key issues against the study’s legitimacy are briefly summarized below.
The fracking study is authored by Cardno Entrix, a firm who also authored both sides of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the infamous XL pipeline.
The Baldwin Hills Fracking study relies heavily on input from Halliburton. Halliburton actually wrote the entirety of the report on conventional fracking and was responsible for the modeling of the HVHF. Both peer reviewers have close ties to oil production interests. One was enmeshed in the controversy surrounding the shuttered SUNY Buffalo Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI).
The Inglewood Oil Field fracking study is narrowly focused on the geographic features within the Inglewood oil field as defined by the Community Standards District (CSD). It is unlikely to be relevant elsewhere in California as it attempts no relevancy past the oil field’s own fence line.
Is it a study, a report or a persuasive marketing document?
Residents and workers in Culver City, Los Angeles, West LA College, Inglewood and unincorporated Los Angeles County should not be reassured by this report.
Issues with the Fracking Study
This is a partial summary of key issues found with the Inglewood Oil field Hydraulic Fracking study:
- Artificial “peer review”: The Hydraulic Fracturing study hasn’t been scientifically peer reviewed. The Peer review comments were solely editorial and focused on issues of readability when instead they should be challenging of the science and methodology. Without an adequate peer review, the fracking study has no more scientific merit than PXP’s Annual report: it may have relevant information but it is effectively a marketing document.
- Contrived testing conditions: The prime focus of the fracking study is on the effects of a single stage (HVHF) fracking of two vertical wells, only one of which was close to production fracking pressures. The fracked test wells were specially constructed, tested, monitored, and reported on as no production well has ever been. The “test” conditions were controlled to show that an individual frack job could be executed safely – ONCE, and are not representative of real-world fracking processes:
- Wells were cemented from top to bottom – 100% cementing of the outside of the casing – annular spaces out to the bore wall (rock) – compared to 10-15% cementing on a typical well.
- Wells were logged to check the bonds between the steel casing, cement, and cement-bore wall, usual is just a “pressure test” of the well casings – but not at fracking pressures.
- Wells were then perforated and cleaned out and then fracked while micro-seismically monitored from adjacent wells to make sure the fracks didn’t go too far and impact other wells or leak into faults.
- HVHF fracking is typically conducted on horizontally drilled wells, in multiple stages and at higher pressures.
- Omitted relevant research- Earthquakes: The Inglewood Oil Field straddles the Newport-Inglewood fault- a potential 7.2-7.4 magnitude earthquake fault line.
- The Inglewood Oil Field Fracking Study fails to incorporate the BC Oil and Gas Commission’s Horn River Basin investigation which correlated a series of 38 earthquakes between 2009-2011 (magnitudes ranging from 2.2 to 3.8 on the Richter scale) with fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing in proximity to pre-existing faults.
- The study asserts that the Newport-Inglewood Fault stops at Ballona Creek – implying less earthquake risk -when the Fault line’s actual terminus is in Beverly Hills.
- Didn’t supply research- Groundwater: The study asserts that the groundwater reservoirs in the oilfield are not interconnected to each other, or to the larger LA Water Basin, and that there was no detectable change in groundwater quality pre vs post fracking,
- Post-fracking analysis of groundwater demonstrated concentration increases of Chromium. 9 other chemical contaminates, including Benzene and Toulene, which were not previously detectable before fracking, became measurable afterward.
- The USGS models Baldwin Hills as a “no-flow cell” where LA Basin Water doesn’t move into Baldwin Hills. This definition however doesn’t exclude the possibility of ground and surface water moving out and down the upended Pico strata or through unprotected alluvium, into the LA Basin groundwater. The required survey of groundwater outside the oil fields perimeter, and their migratory connections to each other and the oil field is not included.
- Hydraulic Fracking fundamentally changes liquid and gas movement by increasing permeability of impervious rock. An assessment or probabilistic modeling is required to indicate where the fluids migrated before fracturing vs where they will go after (example: liquids flowed from the DogPark “abandoned well” although everything was done to DOGGR requirements.)
- The LA Regional Water Quality Control Board regards the “groundwater” of the oil field, as all of the LA Basin to be “Protected Water” for Municipal use.
- Includes inconclusive Health effects research: The fracking study’s author asserts that the Los Angeles County, Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Inglewood Oil Field Health Assessment lack of ability to report statistical difference of health effects as demonstration of safety.
- According to the reports own executive summary, and the DPH presentation at July 2012 CAP meeting, they could not perform a fine enough statistical analysis of their data set- they were “limited by sample size” and their “analyses cannot detect small increases in risk“. The health effects are inconclusive and cannot be dismissed.
- The time period of the data collected for the Inglewood Oil Field Health Assessment (2000-2007) predates the oilfields initiation of HVHF fracking (9/15/2011) by 4 1/2 years. High-rate gravel packing started in 2003-The 5 year overlap may be too short to demonstrate cumulative effects of repeated toxic exposures or the bio-accumulation of persistent chemicals.
- The Assessment includes statistical analysis of published health reports instead of direct sampling and can only crudely infer chemical body burden.
- The DPH report compared communities of Culver City, Los Angeles and unincorporated LA County who are neighboring the Inglewood Oil Field against all of LA County. Other neighborhoods impacted by similar oil extraction and processing, such as Long Beach, Carson etc could skew the results. Such communities should have either
- been excluded from the study or,
- compared against Inglewood Oil Field or,
- grouped with Inglewood Oil Field residents and compared against the general population.
- Failed to address long-term impact: The Hydraulic Fracturing study is based on near-term impacts and fails to address cumulative and long-term effects. The Los Angeles Basin has been settled for over 200 years and the study should expect a longer legacy than a one year study can extrapolate.
- Research not relevant past fence line: Underscoring how literally narrow the fracking study is, the Inglewood Oil field varies between 0.6 – 1.5 miles wide and surrounded by public park space, residential and commercial development in Culver City, Los Angeles, West LA College and unincorporated Los Angeles County. No measurements were taken in the impacted areas which lie outside the perimeter of the Inglewood Oil Field, or within the Newport-Inglewood fault, for contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, or the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals.
- Doesn’t document impacts or strategies – Ground Movement: Fracking undermines geologic structure by converting foundation rock to less strong reservoir rock. Fluid injection & extraction along the Newport-Inglewood subsidiary faults has resulted in subsidence & ground fractures (Hamilton/Meehan, 1971). Report is missing data and projections pertaining to ground movement as the expected result of continued and prolonged fracking.
- The use of extraction and injection within the Inglewood Oil Field to manage ground movement issues such as subsidence, liquefaction, lubrication of slip zones or settlement is not documented. Oil field pressurization/depressurization strategies is an imperfect balancing act. The additional effects of integrating High Pressure fracking from this already missing documentation needs to be demonstrated and modeled.
- Employs rhetorical language: Fracking Study includes instances where instead of specifying exact data, a rhetorical device is used. The Study employs non-specific words and conditions as in this example: “.. many of the [fracking] chemicals are soluble in oil and would be removed from the subsurface when the oil is sold.”
- Includes factual disclaimer: Halliburton includes the following fracking fluid disclaimer which undermines scientific disclosure and scientific relevance of the study: “..this document may contain inadvertent typographical, technical, factual, or other errors or omissions in the information provided. UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES HALLIBURTON MAKES NO GUARANTEES, WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS..”
Fracking Study needs independent, scientific peer review
This Fracking study raises more questions than real answers and needs to be independently verified to be considered more than a PR document or an industry-backed whitewash. Having PXP pay for the study out of the settlement was intended as a punitive solution not as a source of corrupting influence. Due to the poorly defined conditions of the settlement the study was able to be written to the Oil industry favor. The key result of the report is not scientific but the pushing of the marketing.assertion that “Fracking is Safe”.
The public is entitled to a valid peer-reviewed scientific investigation. There are independent local experts, such as Dr. Tom Williams and Patricia McPherson, who can perform the requisite scientific peer review this study needs.The fact that PXP and Los Angeles County set the budget, selected the study’s author and reviewers separate from public input condemned it of requisite impartiality.
The 206+ page Fracking Study has supplied important information to concerned citizens on the process of Fracking. Noteworthy are Halliburton’s color-coded, yet still simplified, model of Baldwin Hills’ geologic layers and incidents of fracking micro-seismic events. The report offers insight into the industry’s practice of Hydraulic Fracturing that hasn’t been publicly released before.
Damon Nagami of National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends “that California agencies with the appropriate expertise take a close look at this study and provide the public with their comments. Agencies such as the State Water Resources Control Board , the South Coast Air Quality Management District , theDepartment of Toxic Substances Control , the Department of Public Health and possibly others should weigh in and help the public understand whether the study’s findings are supported by sound science.”
Food & Water Watch, a non-profit environmental group, says that [the peer reviewer] controversy and the Inglewood study’s narrow scope raises more questions about the validity of the Plains Exploration report.
The Fracking study was a mandated stipulation of the July 15,2011 settlement agreement with community groups against PXP and The County of Los Angeles. The PXP Inglewood Oil Field Hydraulic Fracturing Study was released October 10, 2012.
Not Surprisingly, PXP Study Finds No Harm From Fracking at Inglewood Oil Field. Food & Water Watch, 10-10-12
Keystone XL Contractor and SUNY Buffalo Shale Institute Conduct LA County’s Fracking Study, DeSmogBlog – 10-12-2012
Results of fracking study concern Baldwin Hills-area residents. 89.3 KPCC – Take Two, 10-16-12
Baldwin Hills Residents Dispute Fracking Study Findings Pacifica Evening News 10-17-12
Baldwin Hills fracking study is questioned LA TIMES, 10-15-12
Browse the Inglewood Oilfield Hydraulic Fracturing Study below: