The Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), with funding support from the United States Department of Energy (DOE), has unveiled a landmark Web-based national registry disclosing the chemical additives used in the hydraulic fracturing process on a well-by-well basis. The information on the Web site covers wells drilled starting in 2011. The initiative provides energy companies involved in oil and gas exploration and production a single-source means to publically disclose the chemical additives used in the hydraulic fracturing process.
Used in the development of deep shale horizontal wells, hydraulic fracturing fluid is a mixture of water and sand with a small amount of chemical additives to enhance the production of hydrocarbons from otherwise inaccessible oil and gas reserves deep below the earth’s surface. Water and sand generally comprise approximately 98 percent of hydraulic fracturing fluid volume. The fracturing fluid is pumped at high pressure underground to create small cracks, or fractures, releasing the trapped oil and gas from rock formations, allowing it to flow through the wellbore to the surface where it is captured. The process, which has been the subject of a number of state regulatory initiatives, public interest and an ongoing study by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is overseen by regulatory professionals at the state level in the field of earth science. More than 90 percent of the exploration wells drilled in the United States use the hydraulic fracturing process.
The new Web site, http://www.FracFocus.org>www.FracFocus.org, features an interface that gives the public and regulators access to comprehensive information about hydraulically-fractured wells nationwide. Searchable fields allow users to identify wells by location, operator, state and county, as well as a standard well identification number, known as an API number. The site also contains general information on the hydraulic fracturing process, water protection programs, descriptions of the chemicals used and their function in the process, and the Chemical Abstract Services registry number of each additive. A “Frequently Asked Questions” section also is included. In addition, the site also features information on private water wells, outlining steps landowners can take to learn more about operating and maintaining their water wells.
Participating energy companies voluntarily upload information about the chemical additives and the proportion used in each hydraulic fracturing job using a standard template. As of the launch, 24 energy companies are participating in the www.FracFocus.org project. In addition, several state regulators are actively encouraging energy companies to disclose information through the national chemical registry.
“For the past six months, our two organizations have been working together to build this first-of-its-kind Web-based national chemical registry,” says Mike Paque, executive director of the GWPC, an organization composed of state water and Underground Injection Control agencies unified by a mission to protect and conserve ground water as a critical component of the ecosystem. “As more and more questions were asked about the hydraulic fracturing process the past couple of years – particularly relating to chemical additives used in the process – we recognized an obstacle to greater disclosure was the lack of a uniform and efficient way to collect, report and ensure public access. Information about additives used in the process was widely distributed, but difficult to access.”
“States have regulated the hydraulic fracturing process for more than half a century,” says Mike Smith, executive director of the IOGCC, an organization representing the governors of more than 30 oil and gas producing states, whose mission it is to conserve domestic oil and gas resources while ensuring environmental protection. “Until now, regulators and the public had no single site where they could easily access useful information on hydraulic fracturing and the additives used in the process. That said, the Web site will be a useful new tool to help the public learn about the hydraulic fracturing process. Our organizations have a responsibility to keep the public informed. We see this site as a step forward, and we expect it will evolve even more in the future.”
List of Participating Energy Companies
Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
BP America Production Co.
Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.
Chesapeake Energy Corp.
Chief Oil & Gas LLC
El Paso E&P Co.
EOG Resources Inc.
High Mountain Exploration & Production LLC
Marathon Oil Corp.
Newfield Exploration Co.
Pioneer Natural Resources
Plains Exploration & Production Co.
QEP Resources Inc.
Seneca Resources Corp.
Shell Exploration and Production Co.
Southwestern Energy Production Co.
Talisman Energy USA Inc.
XTO Energy / ExxonMobil
New National Registry on Additives Used in Hydraulic Fracturing
April 12, 2011