Under a state regulatory process established a little more than a year ago for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), Wyoming has determined that trade secret compounds involving 146 separate chemicals, but not the chemicals themselves, have been granted confidentiality by the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC).
For the first time since the process was put in place (see NGI, Sept. 6, 2010), OGCC Supervisor Tom Doll last Wednesday gave details to a Petroleum Association of Wyoming meeting on trade secret exemptions he has granted to nearly a dozen chemical companies so far. Not every chemical combination used has been granted exemptions from public disclosure, and in two cases Doll has denied requests for confidentiality.
Overall, the process is working well; the amount of push-back from the industry is minimal, and there are no lawsuits challenging the state process, Doll told NGI on Friday.
Part of the disclosure by the state revealed that more than one-third of the exempted chemical compounds are used mainly as “tracers” in the fracking fluid to show the reach of the underground fractures. Another 50% of the compounds are used in mixes involved in the actual fracturing of the formation.
“The tracers [compounds] are there to verify that the fracture stays in the zone of interest,” said Doll, noting that it has been misinterpreted that all companies needed to get an exemption is to apply. “That isn’t so,” he said, “There is a definite process under the Wyoming Public Records Act that has to be followed.”
The chemicals themselves are not kept secret, just the chemical compounds, Doll stressed. On the OGCC website is a list of the companies that have sought trade secret status and the chemicals involved, along with the justification for keeping the compounds secret.
“The general public hasn’t been able to see any of the names of the actual chemical compounds used,” Doll said. He added that “all bets are off” if an incident or accident occurs involving secret compounds. “If there is an accident or some sort of injury related to those compounds, then we would make sure the responders would have the information, and there also would be a sheet on the job site.”
The information that Doll provided last Wednesday has been available on the OGCC website (www.wogcc.state.wy.us) since each trade secret was applied for by operators and service companies. “The 146 chemical compounds so far is not a very big number on a month-to-month basis, and it is certainly not every chemical that these chemical suppliers would use in hydraulic fracturing,” Doll said.
Doll expects more requests because many of small third-party chemical suppliers to the service companies and producers were not aware that Wyoming has the new rules. “I would expect as these companies sell more and more of their specialty chemicals to these major service companies, we will start to see those types of companies asking for trade secret status,” he said.
While everything is “proprietary” to most chemical producers, to get the trade secret status in Wyoming, it has to be justified and be a trade secret, Doll said. Just because a compound is proprietary is not enough, he said.
Companies receiving exemptions include: CESI Chemical Inc.; Nalco Co.; CalFrac Well Services Corp.; Multi-Chem Group LLC; Baker Hughes; Halliburton Energy Service Inc.; BJ Services Co.; Core Lab Reservoir Optimization; SNF Inc.; Spectrum Tracer Services; and Water Mark Technologies Inc.
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