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Page added on April 25, 2014

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Major oil, gas firm to list fracking chemicals

Production

A major supplier to the oil and gas industry says it will begin disclosing 100% of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid, with no exemptions for trade secrets. The move by Baker Hughes of Houston is a shift for a major firm; it’s unclear if others will follow suit.

The oil and gas industry has said the fracking chemicals are disclosed at tens of thousands of wells, but environmental and health groups and government regulators say a loophole that allows companies to hide chemical “trade secrets” has been a major problem.

A statement on the Baker Hughes website said the company believes it’s possible to disclose 100% “of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations,” to increase public trust.

“This really good news. It’s a step in the right direction,” said Dr. Bernard Goldstein, the former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “One hopes that the entire industry goes along with it.”

But Goldstein noted one “major hedge” in the Baker Hughes position, since the company said it will provide complete lists of the products and chemical ingredients used in frack fluids “where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities.”

Still, Goldstein said the Baker Hughes language sets a new standard for transparency and “clearly distinguishes them from Halliburton,” another major industry supplier.

Baker Hughes spokeswoman Melanie Kania wrote in an email that it will take “several months” for the new policy to take effect. She said the end result will be a “single list” that provides “all the chemical constituents” for frack fluids, with no trade secrets.

Amy Mall, a policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Baker Hughes move is a positive step, and that “if one company can do it, it’s very clear all companies can do it.” Mall said NRDC doesn’t believe companies should use the trade secret argument to hide drilling chemicals.

A spokeswoman for Houston-based Halliburton, another major oil and gas supplier, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A boom in drilling has led to tens of thousands of new wells being drilled in recent years using the fracking process. A mix of water, sand and chemicals is forced into deep underground formations to break rock apart and free oil and gas. That’s led to major economic benefits but also fears that the chemicals used in the process could spread to water supplies.

The mix of chemicals varies by company and region — and some of the chemicals are toxic and could cause health problems in significant doses — so the lack of full transparency has worried landowners and public health experts.

Many companies voluntarily disclose the contents of their fracking fluids through FracFocus.org, a website partially funded by the oil and gas industry that tracks fracking operations nationwide. But critics say the website has loose reporting standards and allows companies to avoid disclosure by declaring certain chemicals as trade secrets.

An Energy Department task force report issued in March that found that 84% of the wells registered on FracFocus invoked a trade secret exemption for at least one chemical. The Task Force said it “favors full disclosure of all known constituents added to fracturing fluid with few, if any exceptions.”

The FracFocus website is managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, both based in Oklahoma, and is funded by industry and the Energy Department.

Gerry Baker of the Oil and Gas Compact said he doesn’t know of any other major supplier that has made a pledge similar to the one from Baker Hughes.

“It’s a business decision on their part,” Baker said. “Somehow, they’ve committed to this at the highest levels” of disclosure.

The Interior Department is expected to finalize proposed regulation for hydraulic fracturing on public lands by the end of the year. The measure would apply to some 700 million acres of federal lands and 56 million acres of lands controlled by federally recognized Indian tribes.

The rule proposed last year would require companies drilling for oil and natural gas to disclose chemicals used in fracking operations. The information would be made public.

The DOE said 25 states now mandate public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, including 15 that use FracFocus as a reporting tool.

Industry groups oppose the disclosure rule, saying it would be costly for businesses, with little environmental or safety benefit. The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s top lobbying group, has praised the efforts of states to adopt the FracFocus database for disclosing chemicals, but has said additional federal regulations could jeopardize economic growth.

Asked about the Baker Hughes plan, API spokesman Zachary Cikanek said in an email that they “also welcome additional efforts by individual companies to increase public engagement and transparency.”

USA-TODAY



2 Comments on "Major oil, gas firm to list fracking chemicals"

  1. rockman on Fri, 25th Apr 2014 7:18 am 

    Thank goodness…finally some common sense. Just so everyone knows: frac fluid chemistry has never been a “secret”. If I have Halliburton work up a frac proposal for my well they’ll deliver a 10+ page report with ever chemical listed down to the ounce along with a detailed minute by minute breakdown of the pumping process. And this is how it’s been done for many decades. No one does anything to my $6+ million well without me knowing the details.

    And yes I sign a non-disclosure statement which every operator violates. And every service company knows is violated and wouldn’t dare criticize me for doing so: I would give the Halliburton report to Baker to generate a competitive bid. Again how it’s been done for decades. That SOP.

    But I would never PUBLISH those details without a release from the service company. That’s where the copy right laws kick in. And in Texas the Rail Road Commision can collect samples of all the frac fluids and have an observer on location thru out the entire frac job.

    So why the issue for not putting out public notice before? I’ve asked the engineers with Halliburton et al and they don’t understand either. They simply say those are the orders from their legal departments.

    BTW frac fluids are not nearly as dangerous as the billions of gallons of non-oil patch wastes that are pumped down disposal wells in this country every year. But the MSM hasn’t picked up on that so it mustn’t be important. LOL.

  2. Kenz300 on Fri, 25th Apr 2014 1:15 pm 

    The information on fracking chemicals needs to be public.

    Our first priority should be to protect the ground water.

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