Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — Not long ago, I wrote an article on the alarming possibility that someone in Cuba could decide to implement fracking techniques in Cuba. At the time, I had no idea how quickly these concerns would become more real.
Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, as we know, is a technique developed to stimulate oil wells with declining productivity. Implemented chiefly in the United States, it consists in injecting a high-pressure mixture of water and other substances into the deep subsoil. This way, the oil that refuses to come out the easy way is forced out of the ground.
Environmentalists have identified many problems that stem from this technique: it pollutes water reserves, consumes high quantities of this precious liquid and causes seismic movements by shifting plates. Its widespread use, true, has allowed for a temporary increase in the extraction of crude and the cheapening of oil barrels. Some countries whose economies are based chiefly on oil exports (such as Russia and Venezuela) have had a very tough time thanks to this drop in prices. The leaders of these countries have even accused the US of using this technique as a means of destabilizing their systems, and our press has gladly reproduced such views.
As I wrote above, I had speculated about what would happen if a foreign investor approached CUPET, Cuba’s oil company, with a proposal to implement fracking methods in the country. Shortly afterwards, Cuban newspapers published an article that almost confirms my fears. As it turns out, they are now applying a technique in Boca de Jaruco which appears to be a close relative of fracking.
The Boca de Jaruco deposit is one of the oldest in the country. The press explains that, recently, a team of Russian, Chinese and Cuban experts drilled new wells and injected high-pressure water vapor into them. Expert Juan Benito Hernandez Titan tells those interested in the matter that this method reduces the viscosity of the liquid fuel and the oil gushes out of its own (or they can extract it more easily, at least). Engineer Andrey Brebenov says that this is the ideal place for this technique.
Maybe I’m completely ignorant when it comes to this, but it seems to me this is something very similar to fracking. The main difference is that they are injecting steam instead of pressurized water. Is that enough to avoid most of the inconveniences associated to fracking? Of course, I have no idea.
What I imagine is that they’re not injecting a few liters of steam. It must be a fair quantity in cubic meters, and at extremely high pressures, for the technique to yield any results. What we are talking about, therefore, is a few tons of water. Is this not to the detriment of other people’s water needs?
That high-pressure steam must be injected into the subsoil “several times a year,” according to the article. I wonder whether that isn’t as likely to cause an earthquake as a high-pressure water injection.
Boca de Jaruco is located 25 miles east of the capital, Havana, which is considered “heritage of humanity” and is now one of the seven wonder cities of the world. If I were Eusebio Leal, I would be worried about a tremor that could well bring down two or three city blocks in the old town, caused by that steam fracking method. If I lived in any of those city blocks in Old Havana, I would be a hell of a lot more worried.
Perhaps there is no such danger, but I would like for honest experts to clearly explain the characteristics of this process, so that I can make my own opinion about it, contrasting opinions from several sources, not only the government and foreign entrepreneurs interested in exploiting the deposit.
The most ironic part is that, to produce all of that steam, they have to put the water in a cauldron and heat it up with a large fire, and the fire will likely be lit using oil. Burning oil above to get at the oil below, aren’t these engineers something?