Steam Fracking in Cuba?

Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

steam injecting
Graphic: wikipedia.org

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?


8 thoughts on “Steam Fracking in Cuba?

  • January 30, 2015 at 9:45 pm
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    A terrific video! Thank you for posting it.

  • January 28, 2015 at 10:00 am
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    Moses, this little video would help anyone to understand the pitfalls of socialism, and the stimulus and rewards of capitalism. It should be required viewing for the Cuban government. Let’s hope that Cuba will fully adopt the principals of capitalism one day so that everyone on the island can have a little chuckle too.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h8O7V-WxWQ

  • January 27, 2015 at 9:59 pm
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    Well said. It was the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who said — ‘The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.’

  • January 27, 2015 at 7:06 pm
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    Unless Cuba is prepared to be perpetually dependent on some times shaky partners, it is going to need to get competive. Funny thing about socialist, they are better at spending than they are at making wealth.

  • January 27, 2015 at 4:27 pm
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    This is not hydraulic fracking.
    Jorge Piñon
    University of Texas at Austin

  • January 27, 2015 at 3:43 pm
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    It can create earthquakes or temblors in USA in places where never had temblors it had produced 27 only last year, so with the the infrastructure of the buildings in Cuba, this going to be another “logro” of the Revolution.

  • January 27, 2015 at 12:18 pm
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    Yes, it takes energy to produce steam and pump it underground. That is why engineers conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the project is worthwhile. A well designed project uses much less energy to extract than the energy in the oil they recover. The resent drop in oil prices has changed the cost-benefit equations for many projects involving the extraction of non-conventioanl oil. As a result, the fracking and oilsands projects in North America have been scaled back.

  • January 27, 2015 at 7:51 am
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    Despite the middle-school tone of this post, the writer highlights an important point frequently being revealed through Cuba’s tepid economic reforms. Despite the blah, blah, blah about solidarity between Russia, Venezuela and Cuba, when Cuba finds a way to make it on its own, it will cut bait with all that solidarity crap and screw whomever they need to screw to survive. In this case, the use of fracking has indeed helped to make the US grow energy independent. This, in turn, has encouraged the OPEC coalition to allow the drastic fall in oil prices to help stave off this increase in production in the US. Putin’s Russia, and that bozo, Maduro in Venezuela have both criticized fracking as it has helped to undermine their oil-dependent economies. If at least the basic facts in this post are true, with pals like Cuba, Russia and Venezuela must be thinking “Who needs enemies?” I am a little surprised that the HT editor published this post. Rogelio, by his own admission, writes, “Maybe I’m completely ignorant when it comes to this….”. Not maybe.

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