Mines presents hydraulic fracturing discussion

An informational event providing insight into the function and practice of hydraulic fracture stimulation in the oil and gas industry, “Hydraulic Fracturing: Facts and Fiction,” was presented by the Mines student chapter of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development on the Mines campus on Feb. 26.

Attendees watched Phelim McAleer’s documentary, “FrackNation,” which aims to address concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing as featured in an earlier documentary “Gasland.” Following the film, a panel discussion was held including Dr. William Fleckenstein, Mines petroleum engineering interim department head, Dr. Steve Sonnenberg, Mines Geology Department Boettcher Distinguished Chair Professor, and David Neslin, the past director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

“We had a lot of people there, I estimated around 800,” said Fleckenstein. “There were a lot of questions from the audience and I think the film gave a great contrast to ‘Gasland’.”

Student organizers recognized the importance of holding the event as a way to provide technical insight into a controversial topic.

“The practice of hydraulic fracture stimulation is a politically polarizing subject around the world; even to people that know very little about it. We created this event to shed light on the practice and discuss facts and fiction,” said Alex Gibson, geology graduate student and vice president of the Mines chapter of the AAPG.

Mustafa Al Ibrahim, a second year geology graduate student and an AAPG student officer, said that as a geologist he has been focused mostly on the technical aspects of hydraulic fracturing, but this discussion revealed the importance of the relationship between science, politics and public perceptions.

“My personal hope is that people, irrespective of their position, left the event with the mentality that they should question what they hear and see about such polarizing issues. I also hope that they realized that there are a lot venues to learn more about the issue,” he said.