Thursday, December 16, 2010

Disclosure of Fracking Ingredients May Become More Transparent

Fracking has been in the news a lot lately.  Especially for the questions surrounding the chemicals used in the process.  What is fracking, you ask?  In short, fracking, which is a shortened form of hydraulic fracturing, is the process by which oil and gas explorers use chemicals and fluids under pressure to force the expansion of cracks (fractures) in rocks as a means to increase the output of a well.  Recently there has been a lot of pressure (no pun intended) on oil companies to publicly reveal the chemicals used in fracking fluids.  There has been resistance to this idea, largely on confidential business information grounds, but that might be changing.

This week the primary trade association for the oil industry, the American Petroleum Institute (API), joined with other oil and gas trade associations to endorse a plan in which companies would voluntarily disclose the chemicals found in fracking fluids. The plan was developed by Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC).   In endorsing the plan, API noted in its press release that:

 “The states are the proper authority for determining requirements for chemical disclosure; so a program developed by the GWPC, and endorsed by the IOGCC is a step toward a solution on disclosure,” said API’s CEO, Jack Gerard. “But it is critical that we ensure confidential business information is protected and we will work with the GWPC to improve the reporting elements — which ultimately should enable maximum participation and enhance the program’s overall effectiveness.”  
The key here is that the plan, which involves development of an electronic registry, is both voluntary and based in the states rather than being federal level mandatory requirements.  One concern from the NGOs, however, is that the proposed plan could delay any actual disclosure for quite some time as the registry is developed over several years.

Either way, all sides agree that hydraulic fracturing helps to improve the amount of oil and gas that can be extracted from any given well.  That's important both from a cost-effective and efficiency point of view, but also from the understanding that the more that can be extracted from wells already drilled reduces the pressure on drilling more wells.

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