CSTPR Noontime Seminar
Fracking and technological momentum: Risks, hazards and features of the oil and gas extraction system in Colorado
by David Oonk, CSTPR and ATLAS Institute, University of Colorado
This talk will be available via webcast here.
The recent extraction of tight oil and gas resources in the United States has been responsible for a domestic production boom in the last two decades. The ‘frackers’ were able to combine the technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling and innovate further to increase the output, efficiency and speed of production. These extraction technologies have changed the landscape of fossil fuel extraction where oil and gas fields are peppered with thousands of dispersed wells intermixed with communities – which have created novel conflicts between extraction and communities and raised critical questions of the technology’s appropriate use. This research applies a theory of socio-technical systems to understand tight oil and gas extraction at the meso-scale (i.e. Denver Julesburg Basin in northern Colorado), as a means to understand the complex relationship between technical and social features of the system, the motivations and goals of the system, and the hidden conflicts they create. The influences of the system can dictate how we conceptualize the system’s risk, the distribution of that risk and how we make decisions about it. Two avenues in which a system can exercise influence on decision-making spaces is by increasing the authority of scientific and technical expertise in defining risk of these technologies and the reducing the efficacy of outside stakeholders. Through this frame this research aims to better illuminate the relationship between the modern oil and gas extraction system and the society in which it’s nested and explore critical questions of the system’s risk and future as an energy source.
David Oonk’s research focuses on oil and gas development and policy in Colorado. He researches the dynamics and practices of horizontal drilling and ‘fracking’ technologies, the governance problems they create, and the role of science in assessing their risk and influence policy-making. He has experience designing programs and conducting research in environmental science communication and education using visual media and art. He is advised by Max Boykoff faculty in Department of Environmental Studies and Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR).