The Carpinteria-based oil company Venoco has been “acidizing” its offshore wells from Platform Holly to extract more resources in recent years, and Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center is concerned that the process — in which hydrochloric and/or hydrofluoric acid gets pumped into the earth to dissolve rocks and free up oil — is being allowed without additional environmental review. The discovery of 10 instances of acidizing from the rig, which sits in state water off of the Goleta coast, was made by the EDC’s student intern Matthew Buggert, who was funded by a grant from UCSB Associated Students Coastal Fund, as he researched public records from the state’s Division of Oil, Gas, & Geothermal Resources.
Most of those instances were “matrix acidizing,” as compared to the more pressurized process of “fracture acidizing,” which cracks the rocks like hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. Historically, acidizing was used to clean well pipes, but companies have more recently started to use it on the Monterey shale formation for extraction. “There’s a lot of new or modified technologies that are being used, and it’s not just fracking,” said the EDC’s Brian Segee. “For us, they raise similar concerns about lack of transparency and lack of prior environmental analysis.” Venoco did not return an email seeking comment as of press deadline.