The website, www.FracFocus.org (pictured left), is being launched by the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), with funding from the Department of Energy. The website will show chemical additives used in the hydraulic fracturing process on a well-by-well basis, for wells drilled starting in 2011.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses water, particles and chemicals injected underground at high pressure to break up shale and release natural gas.
The IOGCC represents the governors of more than 30 oil and gas producing states, with a mission to conserve domestic oil and gas resources while ensuring environmental protection. The GWPC comprises state water and underground injection control agencies, with a mission to protect and conserve groundwater.
The backers say the website features an easy-to-use interface that will give regulators and the public access to comprehensive information about wells nationwide. Search fields allow users to identify wells by location, operator, state, county and well identification (API) number.
The site offers 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. It also outlines 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. Several state regulators are actively encouraging energy companies to disclose information through the national chemical registry, the website’s backers said.
“For the past six months, our two organizations have been working together to build this first-of-its-kind web-based national chemical registry,” said Mike Paque, executive director of the GWPC. “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.”
The website launch has coincided with some bad publicity for the natural gas industry. An analysis to be published this week in the journal Climatic Change Letters, by Cornell University professor Robert Howarth, concludes that between 3.6 percent to 7.9 percent of the methane contained in natural gas leaks into the atmosphere during the shale gas production cycle.
This makes the climate effects of natural gas production worse than that of coal, the New York Times says.
The Department of the Interior is considering enacting regulations on fracking, and the Senate committee on environment and public works is holding hearings today on natural gas drilling’s environmental and public health impacts.
The EPA is planning to study the impacts of fracking on drinking water, with initial results due in late 2012.
But supporters of natural gas also appear to be rallying. A bipartisan bill to encourage natural gas use, the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (NAT GAS) Act, was introduced last week. An op-ed in today’s New York Times supports the bill.
The companies participating in the online registry are:
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation
BP America Production Company
Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation
Chesapeake Energy Corporation
Chief Oil & Gas LLC
El Paso E&P Company
EOG Resources, Incorporated
High Mountain Exploration & Production LLC
Marathon Oil Corporation
Newfield Exploration Company
Pioneer Natural Resources
Plains Exploration & Production Company
QEP Resources, Inc.
Seneca Resources Corporation
Shell Exploration and Production Company
Southwestern Energy Production Company
Talisman Energy USA Incorporated
XTO Energy / ExxonMobil