Hydraulic Fracturing Is An Open Book

Hydraulic Fracturing Is An Open Book

Posted in the Natural Gas Forum

Tom Shepstone

United States

#1 Nov 19, 2012
Speculative fears are used by agenda-driven groups to suggest something?s hidden and must be found about hydraulic fracturing, but the process and fluids are an open book, so complete and mundane as to be boring to anyone interested in the facts. The truth is this; items arguably the safest of all are the ones most likely to be proprietary.

Some people are never happy. When I first became interested in natural gas as a landowner some four years ago, there was considerable controversy over the fact hydraulic fracturing fluid compositions were typically not shared with the public. They were the essence of what gave one fracturing process the advantage over another and, therefore, protected as proprietary.

Natural gas opponents seized on this to suggest unknown elements were somehow being introduced into groundwater and threatening us all. It wasn?t true, of course, as both the EPA and dozens of states have repeatedly stated, but the mere fact anything was unknown was exploited to create doubt.

The natural gas industry responded to this concern by participating in a new initiative called FracFocus.org where the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids has been publicly disclosed. This website now includes data on fluids used at more than 31,000 well sites developed by 300 energy-producing companies who have registered with FracFocus in a period of just one year. States also have signed onto the program and are requiring registration and disclosure using it. It is, by any measure, a tremendous success.

The opposition, of course, isn?t pleased. It has simply shifted the emphasis and is now demanding more. Dozens of stories have been written about the fact some constituents of hydraulic fracturing fluids are treated as proprietary and not disclosed to the same detail as others. This is standard practice with many new products where manufacturers need to protect their formulations to ensure the ability to recover their investment in research. It?s the same reason we have patent laws and, absent such protection, there would be far fewer technological advances.

None of this matters in the minds of NIMBYs, of course. They simply see it as another example of withholding vital information. Meanwhile, those who are ideologically opposed to natural gas development continue to whip up fears of terrible things being introduced to water supplies, notwithstanding it?s never happened. They prey upon the fact some individual constituents are not being fully disclosed, even if the fluids and the additives are.

While there?s no way to satisfy the true believers on the other side, we note the polls indicate most folks recognize the need for natural gas development and simply want the facts. They deserve them. So, let?s take a close look at this whole issue of disclosure.


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