In 2013, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), setting the framework for regulation of well stimulation technologies in California, including hydraulic fracturing. SB 4 also requires the California Natural Resources Agency to conduct an independent scientific study of well stimulation technologies in California. SB 4 stipulates that the independent study assess current and potential future well stimulation practices, including the likelihood that these technologies could enable extensive new petroleum production
in the state; evaluate the impacts of well stimulation technologies and the gaps in data that preclude this understanding; identify potential risks associated with current practices; and identify alternative practices that might limit these risks. (See Box 1.1-1 for a short history of oil and gas production in California.) This scientific assessment addresses well stimulation used in oil and gas production both on land and offshore in California.
This study is issued in three volumes. Volume I, issued in January 2015, describes how well stimulation technologies work, how and where operators deploy these technologies for oil and gas production in California, and where they might enable production in
the future. Volume II, the present volume, discusses how well stimulation could affect water, atmosphere, seismic activity, wildlife and vegetation, and human health. Volume II reviews available data, and identifies knowledge gaps and alternative practices that could avoid or mitigate these possible impacts. Volume III, also issued in July 2015, presents case studies that assess environmental issues and qualitative risks for specific geographic regions. A final Summary Report summarizes key findings, conclusions and recommendations of all three volumes.
Well stimulation enhances oil and gas production by making the reservoir rocks more permeable, thus allowing more oil or gas to flow to the well. The reports discuss three types of well stimulation as defined in SB 4 (Table 1.1-1 and Volume I, Chapter 2). The first type is “hydraulic fracturing.” To create a hydraulic fracture, an operator increases the pressure of an injected fluid in an isolated section of a well until the surrounding rock breaks, or “fractures.” Sand injected into these fractures props them open after the pressure is released. The second type is “acid fracturing,” in which a high-pressure acidic fluid fractures the rock and etches the walls of the fractures, so they remain permeable after the pressure is released. The third type, “matrix acidizing,” does not fracture the rock; instead, acid pumped into the well at relatively low pressure dissolves some of the rock and makes it more permeable.