New website provides voluntary data on well-specific fracturing

Several energy companies operating in northwest Colorado agreed to publicly disclose on a new website information regarding the components of hydraulic fracturing fluids used in specific wells.

The site, http://www.fracfocus.org, is scheduled to go live April 11 and is a joint project of the Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. The council consists of state regulatory agencies, and the commission is an organization of governors of oil- and gas-producing states.

The site will provide voluntarily disclosed information on fracturing-fluid chemicals used on a well-by-well basis. It will apply only to wells drilled after Jan. 1 of this year.

Williams, the largest natural gas producer in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin, already is posting information to the site. Other companies in the Piceance that have agreed to participate are ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil Corp. and ExxonMobil.

In total, as of Thursday, eight companies had begun reporting information to the site, and 12 more agreed to do so. But the site’s creators expect to see many more companies participate.

“We’re hopeful that we get broad participation, and we’re not above cajoling some of these companies to submit information,” said Mike Paque, executive director of the Groundwater Protection Council.

David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said in a statement,  “We have actively supported this effort to make hydraulic-fracturing information more accessible to the public, and we applaud the many Colorado operators who are participating. We think this will be a useful tool for citizens as well as an important step for industry in its efforts to better educate the public about energy development.”

In 2009, Neslin’s agency began requiring companies to disclose fracturing components when requested by state regulators or health professionals.

Wyoming has begun requiring regular disclosure to the public of those components. A bill in Congress would require nationwide public disclosure, in response to public concerns about whether fracturing components could pose a threat to domestic groundwater.

Some energy-service companies have opposed full disclosure out of a desire to protect the proprietary makeup of certain fracturing recipes. The new website continues to allow proprietary information to be protected.

The site doesn’t address the risks of hydraulic fracturing or argue for or against its use, but provides information on such things as why it’s used, what measures are in place to protect groundwater, and what chemicals typically are used.


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