A recent analysis of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) data from fracfocus.org and oil and gas well records from eight states, which concluded that nearly half of the wells fracked during the last nine months of 2011 were not disclosed on the website, doesn’t tell the whole story, according to industry sources. The industry supports the disclosure website and continues to flood it with well data, they said.
In a report issued this week Bloomberg compared oil and natural gas well records from Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming against disclosures that companies made for those states on fracfocus.org. Between April 11, 2011 and the end of last year companies told regulators in the eight states that 18,158 wells were readied for production or were newly producing, and they disclosed 8,555 of them on fracfocus.org. If Bloomberg’s assumption that 85% of wells in those states are fracked is accurate, 45% of the actual fracked wells were not disclosed on the website.
The analysis showed “the difficulty of getting a full picture of the industry’s transparency,” according to the Bloomberg report.
But according to America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), data culled from only the first few months of FracFocus operation doesn’t accurately depict the industry’s frack disclosure record.
“The timeframe Bloomberg chose to highlight is when FracFocus was being organized and launched and does not provide an accurate picture,” an ANGA spokesman told NGI‘s Shale Daily. “If you were to look at a complete timeframe of FracFocus, you would see a progressively higher rate of participation. In addition, some states are now requiring mandatory disclosure through FracFocus.
“We believe FracFocus is an important resource and one that enables the public to learn more about our industry and its ongoing commitment to safe and responsible development.”
The website, a collaboration of oil and gas companies, the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, went live in April 2011 (see Shale Daily, April 13, 2011). The registry allows users to find wells by state, county, operator and American Petroleum Institute number. It also contains an informational section explaining chemical use, state regulations and the fracking process. There are currently 24,548 well sites registered at the site.
Apache Corp. spokesman Bill Mintz said the Houston-based company has posted 625 frack jobs on the website, including about 250 from 2011, and continues to gather data, even for wells drilled last year.
“We fully expect to reach our goal of 100% disclosure from January 1, 2011 for all the states where we operate,” Mintz told NGI‘s Shale Daily.
For about a year after FracFocus opened, “participation was voluntary and we were working with the service companies to help them develop the systems so that we can make this work on a comprehensive basis. We supported the efforts by the Texas legislature and the Texas Railroad Commission to make participation in FracFocus mandatory, and now that it is mandatory the service providers have developed internal systems to track and provide the chemical disclosure information…
“I think it’s important to realize that the system was brand new and that it took a lot of work by operators and the service companies to get the systems in place, that right now the systems are in place and that there are rules. We will comply with the mandatory rules and since the systems are there, we should be able to go back and fill in the gaps,” Mintz said.
Both ANGA and the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) said they and their members remain committed to operational transparency and public disclosure.
“Marcellus Shale Coalition member companies proactively endorsed organization-wide FracFocus.org participation, which President Obama’s top energy adviser [Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change] called ‘an important tool that provides transparency to the American people.’ We agree,” said MSC president Kathryn Klaber. “It is unfortunate, yet not surprising, that some detractors continue to dismiss these proactive efforts by a highly regulated industry, especially given the overwhelming and undeniable positive economic, environmental and energy security benefits tied to responsible American natural gas development.”
Beginning July 1 producers that use fracking on wells in Oklahoma were required to disclose the contents of the frack fluids they use, save for those contents that are deemed to be trade secrets (see Shale Daily, June 6). The information, which must be provided within 60 days of the completion of fracking operations, can either be provided to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission directly or posted on the FracFocus website.
The gas industry has helped build public trust by disclosing the chemicals used in fracking, according to a recent report by the American Gas Association. Other states that have disclosure requirements include Texas (see Shale Daily, Dec. 14, 2011), Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Arkansas (see Shale Daily, Dec. 10, 2010).
In early May the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management issued a proposed rule that would require producers to disclose chemicals used in fracking operations on public and Native American lands only after the operations have been completed. A group of industrial energy consumers subsequently urged Interior Secretary Ken Salazar not to impose “duplicative” regulations on fracking of oil and natural gas wells on public lands, noting that they already disclose the chemicals they use on the FracFocus website (see Shale Daily, June 19).
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