The leading California state lawmakers bird-dogging proposals to stiffen the state’s oversight of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) brought a new issue to the table — acidization to unlock Monterey Shale oil deposits — during a state Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee hearing last month in Sacramento .

State Sen. Fran Pavley, who is sponsoring a fracking bill (SB 4) that has industry support (see Shale Daily, June 17), raised concerns about other forms of well stimulation, such as the acidizing, or “acid stimulation,” process during a hearing in which industry lobbyists appeared before state lawmakers, representing the senior executives of Occidental Petroleum Corp., Chevron Corp. and Venoco Inc.

“Industry representatives have stated that acid could be among the most important tools for extracting oil from California’s Monterey Shale, but little information has been disclosed to regulators, the legislature and the public about its use,” Pavley said in opening the committee hearing.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) had one of its public affairs specialists appear at the committee hearing. “It is not clear yet whether Sen. Pavley will include acidization in SB 4,” a WSPA spokesperson told NGI’s Shale Daily on Monday. The proposed fracking bill is a “work in progress.”

“Generally, the use of acid as a well stimulation technique is to clean equipment and improve production,” WSPA spokesman Tupper Hull said. “It is not new or exotic.” Hull stressed that the use of acid was like fracking technology; it has been around a long time and is “well understood, well regulated and safe.”

“We do not have any information that indicates our members are planning to increase the use of acid as a Monterey Shale production technology, but we are aware there have been statements made in the [general interest] press to that effect.”

As with hydraulic fracturing, WSPA thinks that a few environmental groups who are generally opposed to any increased oil production have more recently become aware of the use of acid in the well completion process and are attempting to build some controversy around it.

The recent stir in added fracking coverage in local general interest news media comes at a time when some Sacramento-based energy observers have been concluding that the Monterey Shale’s oil reserves could offer California a way out of any economic shortfall in the years ahead (see Shale Daily, June 13).

Some observes have pointed to the fact that California Gov. Jerry Brown wants to invest more in education and in infrastructure, and the drilling dollars that could be captured from what some consider the “huge” potential of the Monterey could help in a big way fund those plans.