Fracking, the drilling technique that’s driven a boom in land-based shale gas production, has sparked environmental concerns and public outcry, from Pennsylvania to the Louisiana coast.
But fracking is also expanding offshore, in the Gulf of Mexico, with hardly anyone noticing.
A year after California imposed new regulations requiring oil and gas companies to notify state regulators and the public whenever they perform hydraulic fracturing, environmental groups and policy experts are suddenly and belatedly learning about offshore fracking in the Gulf and expressing frustration with a lack of information from regulators.
“People don’t know this is happening,” said Jonathan Henderson of the environmental advocacy group Gulf Restoration Network. “Nobody I talk to has any idea, much less the process that’s used to get at those reserves.”
“There’s very little public information on the practice, and to date, we just simply don’t know a great deal about where and when it’s taking place,” said Jayni Hein, policy director at New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity.
Fracking refers to the shooting of chemicals, water and sand into the bottom of a well to stimulate the flow of oil and gas from the surrounding formation, so it can be sucked up more quickly and easily. The process has been around for about 70 years on land and in commercial use offshore for about 20 years.