The intent of continued research by the Department of Energy (DOE) into hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is “can we help drive the technology development forward,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a Senate committee Thursday.

Chu’s remarks came in response to a loaded question from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ranking minority member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who asked Chu whether the department’s intent was to search for “bad news” about the shale gas practice.

At the Energy Committee’s hearing into the DOE budget, Murkowski questioned the need for the $12 million in the FY 2013 budget directed to the study of fracking.

An advisory board to the secretary released a 41-page report on fracking last August that Murkowski said was “pretty comprehensive.” It presented 20 recommendations on how any fracking impact can be mitigated, she said (see Shale Daily, Aug. 12, 2011).

“What was the flaw in that advisory committee’s report and recommendations that you felt…now [warrants] a second investigation, that we need to increase the funding?” Murkowski asked. “So why are we doing a second run on this? It raises some concern by some that it’s an effort to find [a] smoking gun about some bad news about fracking.”

Chu: “Senator, it’s actually the exact opposite. The intent [of the research] is can we help drive the technology development forward.” The department’s goal is to work with industry to improve extraction technology.

DOE hopes to play a clearinghouse role so industry can share best practices, he added.