Screenshot 2015-09-05 23.10.53“Go frack yourself!”, “No fracking way!” or “Corporations do not write legislation” are just a few of the messages that spread publicly along with the news according to which shale gas exploration was starting in Romania. Any energy company, regardless of the type of projects in which it was involved, had become a potential “public enemy”, being labeled as such: a shark looking for shale gas. Prospectiuni SA, a company that had been operating for more than 65 years in oilfield exploration, was also caught in this vicious circle, although technically speaking its activity is making sound scans of the ground, no more, no less.

After months of actually being unable to operate because of local movements and protests against shale gas exploration, the company understood that it had to come up with a simple, clear, and visual explanation to dispel any doubt about the work it carried out, and prove to the public that its operations are environmentally safe.

Together, we found a way to dispel myths about prospecting, transforming them into… egg shells.

The results of field research carried out by the employees of Prospectiuni showed that the main accusations were related to the spread of false information on the company, which was supposedly looking for shale gas. Moreover, the locals even claimed that the company’s machinery and exploration methods affected the soil, generated earthquakes, polluted groundwater, and destroyed harvests.

For a by-the-book demonstration, one of the most impressive machines in Prospectiuni’s arsenal took the stage. Known as a seismic vibrator, it is used to generate elastic waves that propagate into the underground and determine what types of natural resources lie there. We chose as the location of the experiment a prospecting field in Arges county, where the company was involved in a geophysical data gathering project and where we brought the two “stars” in the making: the vibrator and a carton of eggs. Starting from the underlying assumption – that the waves generated by the vibrator cannot be felt at a distance greater than 50-100 meters – we decided, after consulting with many geologists and geophysicists, that in order to have a conclusive result the eggs should be buried at a depth of 50 cm. 30 eggs were “planted” in the ground and before the project started were marked to ensure the integrity of the experiment. The vibrator platform, a 12-ton mammoth, was placed over the spot where the eggs had been buried. The machine carried out a complete cycle of operation, the same it runs when it acquires geophysical data for Prospectiuni. Thus, the eggs were subjected to 10-80 Hz vibrations for 12 seconds, according to the standard procedure. In the end, the eggs remained intact and the myth was shattered, thus demonstrating that the operation of the vibrator is safe and harmless, leaving intact even the shell of an egg.

The utility of the experiment was proven in a short time. Prospectiuni officials started using the movie in all their meetings with the representatives of the communities where the company was to begin geophysical data acquisition. The result of the experiment amazed mayors, local councilors and locals alike, who later showed a lot more openness towards finding out details on why such works are needed and about the business of Prospectiuni. This was the first experiment of its kind carried out by an energy company to counteract activist hype lacking any scientific basis through the use of a simple, visual, clearly understandable message.