By Dick Ghiselin I have to keep telling myself, “It is only Hollywood.” Ever since Tinseltown’s ill-fated attempt to pay tribute to famed oilwell blowout fighter Paul “Red” Adair in the movie “Hell Fighters,” starring John Wayne, the oil and gas industry has been mugged by Hollywood screenwriters.

A couple of weeks ago, CBS aired an episode of its popular CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) series in which they did their best to terrorize the public about hydraulic fracturing. Titled “Fracked,” a not-so-subtle innuendo about another F-word, the basic storyline dealt with a police investigation of a murder victim who turned up floating in a sulfur-tainted swimming hole. Subsequent sleuthing revealed that the victim was a “whistle-blower” who was killed for attempting to expose a local gas producer whose well stimulation activities were systematically poisoning a nearby town.

The plot finally got around to explaining its title when one of the detectives was told to look up “fracking” in the dictionary. He did so, and as he attempted to explain it to his colleagues, the video switched to an animation of hydraulic fracturing, Hollywood style.

Wow! I never realized that fracing was so exciting. Apparently, according to CSI’s “experts,” a fracturing operation has all the characteristics of a downhole thermonuclear explosion with huge fireballs breaking out and erupting to the surface, touching off a few minor volcanoes for dramatic effect.

The scene would have been ludicrous had it not been for the nagging thought that colored my perception. What would the average citizen think about fracing or the oil industry in general after seeing this program? The effect would be about the same as the reaction to “Hell Fighters” 40 years ago.

I like to say that I have not had a career; I have had an adventure. Several years ago, one of my adventures involved being contacted by a Hollywood producer. He introduced himself as the one in charge of a movie called “The Abyss,” a science-fiction epic about a deep ocean threat to offshore drilling. The producer explained that he wanted me to act as a technical advisor to ensure that they got the offshore drilling part right. I will admit I was a bit flattered and agreed to help him as much as I could.

Long story short, after I contributed my advice, they politely thanked me and did exactly the opposite. They concluded that deep-sea drilling was too technical and in general way too boring (no pun intended). I saw the movie and had to agree that it was very exciting and probably caused millions of terrified viewers to forswear ever going swimming in the ocean again. But it bore absolutely no resemblance to a rig, drilling, or even the oil and gas industry in general.

A few years ago, Schlumberger sought the help of Hollywood to make a couple of safety films. The videos starred the venerable Glenn Ford and George Kennedy and are still shown today during training of new field personnel for the company. The films do have some exciting parts but would fall flat if held to Hollywood standards.

When I was much younger, a typical Saturday treat for my friends and me was our trek to the matinee at the local theater where, for a total of US $0.25 ($0.15 for admission and $0.10 for a bag of popcorn), we were treated to film history, described by two terms I have never forgotten – stupendous and colossal!

Apparently, in its zeal to entertain, the Hollywood crowd applies the stupendous and colossal test to every adventure/thriller script, and if it does not pass, they go to work adding embellishments until they figure the audience is suitably terrified.

After viewing “Fracked,” I have written my own definitions:

· Stupendous (adj): any media that targets that segment of the population too stupid to know that they are being fooled; and

· Colossal (adj): beyond redemption, as in “a group of colossal idiots” (see stupendous).

Our industry always has bemoaned the fact that the general public does not understand us or the things we do to bring them the energy they cannot live without. Well, all I have to say is that if we do anything to try to change public opinion, it had better be stupendous and colossal. Otherwise, we will be totally fracked.

Dick Ghiselin, Senior Editor, E&P