Over the past few years, the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing has divided our nation. Nevertheless, the wildly successful method of oil and gas extraction continues to gain momentum, as the public stands resolute in its desire for cheaper, cleaner fuel sources. But the public’s misguided understanding of where that cleaner, cheaper fuel comes from does not match its growing negative opinion on what has unconstructively been labeled as “fracking,” the essential means of procuring oil and gas from unconventional resources. In addition to the backlash, there’s also been a barrage of films; graphics and op-eds supporting the process of hydraulic fracturing that is performed by our friends, neighbors and fellow Americans from California to Pennsylvania. Down Deep, the next iteration in fracturing documentaries was commissioned by WPX Energy based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The company, which has a self-interest in ensuring the public understands the process of hydraulic fracturing, commissioned a third party to produce the film, which talks to WPX executives, landowners, community members and experts. The documentary, like those before it, highlights and restates proper well casing and drilling techniques, what perforations are and how large they are, supplemented with conversations and opinions from people who’ve had direct experiences with the oil and gas industry.
The 30-minute documentary, which appears to be directed at individuals still deciding their stance on hydraulic fracturing, offers great information and reiterates the industry’s connection to economic development and jobs with great neutrality. While the film communicates directly with individuals in cities and towns where drilling takes place, it falls short, as do the majority of films advocating for hydraulic fracturing, to speak to the general public in large urban cities where the biggest dissention lies.
WPX Energy Media Relations spokesman Kelly Swan said, “We understand people are going to make their own decisions on where they stand with hydraulic fracturing, what we wanted to articulate was that drilling and hydraulic fracturing go hand-in-hand.” WPX Energy, who operates oil and gas rigs in five basins throughout the country, has been recognized over forty times for technology, innovation, efficiency, reclamation, water management, best practices and community involvement. The company has also made great strides to be transparent, registering over 1,100 wells on the FracFocus.org website.
“We know that reputation is a daily responsibility and what we do is an industrial activity that has risk associated with it,” continued Swan. “So we’re accountable every day as a company for managing and mitigating those risks properly. We feel like we’ve been able to build a good reputation and we know that reputation is on the line every day, and that we have to continue to be a good steward and operator or that reputation can change. It’s not something we take for granted, we know that we have to earn that respect every day that we are drilling and fracturing,” Swan repeated.
As the film draws to an end and the bows draw on the violins in the background, the narrator begins with the most resounding and resonating monologue of the film, opening with, “Like others in controversial industries, bad news and bad press travels around the world at lightning speed, but the truth that follows tends to take forever”: a statement that is not lost on an industry that is largely criticized and misunderstood, but an industry that continues to press forward with honest discourse in an attempt to connect with communities across America.
“We have put feet on the ground where we are drilling to be available and accessible to these local audiences, and that’s very important to us,” said Swan. “Down Deep isn’t supposed to win a bunch of converts; what we wanted to do was provide a piece that’s informative and educational. We wanted to articulate that drilling and hydraulic fracturing go hand-in-hand and that the combination of the two procedures are what is developing these abundant supplies of both oil and natural gas domestically.”
Since this article was posted, WPX Energy has since removed its Down Deep documentary. Media Relations spokesman, Kelly Swan cited a staffing issue with a company representative that appeared multiple times through out the film as the primary reason for it's removal, but said that they would consider putting it back up in the future. Down Deep received almost 40,000 visits on the film's website. Swan went on to state that WPX would, "remain engaged in thoughtful dialogue about fracking, and we think the film helped further that effort in a creative way."