Lifting the veil on fracking fluids

If you go to the website, http://www.fracfocus.org, and search for natural gas wells operated by Williams in Garfield County, you’ll find that water makes up 90 percent or more of the fracking materials used in its wells.

Premium white sand is second, followed by a host of Halliburton-supplied materials, ranging from silica quartz to hydrochloric acid to ethanol.

But perhaps the most amazing thing is that there is a listing of fracking materials at all.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process drilling companies and well-service firms use to unlock natural gas from tight rock formations in which the gas is trapped.

The fracking process has sparked contentious debate over how safe it is, and what sorts of chemicals are being used in the process. Many companies have refused to publicly disclose that information.

On Monday, http://www.fracfocus.org went live, a joint project of the Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission supports the project.

We applaud it, as well. The Daily Sentinel has argued for some time that companies involved in natural gas production should get out in front of the fracking dispute by voluntarily disclosing the chemicals and other materials used in their fracking operations.

We’re pleased to see that http://www.fracfocus.org does exactly that, at least for those companies that have chosen to post fracking information for their wells.

As of Monday morning, 11 companies operating in different parts of the country had fracking information posted for their wells. However, Williams was the only company with well information for Garfield County, Colo.

ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil Corp. and ExxonMobil are expected to begin listing their fracking information soon for wells in the Piceance Basin. Officials associated with the website hope other companies will join, as well.

It is in their best interest to do so to demonstrate they are interested in operating transparently and alleviating public concerns.

In addition to fracking details for specific wells, http://www.fracfocus.org contains a lengthy list of commonly used fracking materials and the reasons they’re used, a description of the hydraulic fracturing process, measures undertaken to protect groundwater, as well as a list of various states’ regulations.

The existence of http://www.fracfocus.org won’t end the controversy over hydraulic fracturing and its impact on the environment. But it should go a long way toward dispelling the notion that drilling and fracking companies have something nefarious to hide.

Kudos to the organizations that put together the website, and especially to the private companies that are voluntarily providing fracking information on the site.


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