A Year Since Disclosure Law, Fracking Fluid Remains a Mystery

Categories: Biz

barnett_shale.jpg
A year ago, a Texas law was supposed to bring the raw ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing out of the shadows and into the sunlight. The process, which involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into shale formations a mile below the surface, isn't subject to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which seems bizarre to some enviros because the identity of those chemicals, along with how they interact with one another and whether they contact groundwater, is only dimly understood.

See also:
- Before They Vote on Fracking, Dallas' Plan Commissioners Will Get a Gas-Drilling Primer

Unfortunately, the Texas law requiring the disclosure of frack fluid constituents has proven as porous as Swiss cheese. The industry is allowed to claim exemptions to the law when it concerns chemicals they say form a proprietary blend.

In fact, according to numbers compiled by PIVOT Upstream Group, frackers invoked trade-secret exemptions more than 10,000 times during nearly 12,500 frack jobs reported last year to FracFocus, the clearinghouse for such data. Which raised the questions: Does a half-assed disclosure really qualify as a disclosure? And: Why bother?

The industry would counter: Why bother innovating effective new mixtures when the work product is on the Internet for free? It's debatable how much of an edge any particular cocktail gives a business whose backbone is relies on snapping up leases over productive zones, but it's a discussion that needs to be had. And it's on equal footing with the fear of exposure to the unknown in areas with intense drilling.

Just don't expect that discussion to take place in the Texas Legislature. As the San Antonio Express-News reports, there ain't much on the agenda.


My Voice Nation Help
22 comments
schermbeck
schermbeck

This is why Dallas needs its own data base without such trade secret exemptions. First Responders and neighbors need to know precisely what chemicals are being used and stored on site, and in what amounts. The gas may be a product, but the air and water aren't.

drtz
drtz

I don't see the big problem here.  Keeping their super secret recipes to themselves is perfectly understandable.  After all, patents can't protect them from those other good-for-nothing drilling companies who want to steal their intellectual property, right?  I think they deserve a little bit of our trust here, people.

Besides, what's the worst that could happen?!  It's only water... there's tons of that stuff.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

I usually stay out of the discussions on this topic.  But to answer Brantley's question, the formulation of the frac job may have an effect on how much of the original gas in place is recovered and the overall cost of the job.   These are simple economic questions.


A lot of time and money is invested in the R&D of fracturing oil and gas formations.


Mitchell Energy spent a lot of time and money in the core area of the Barnett Shale in the Newark, East Field.  At the time in the 90's, some people considered him to be a nutcase.  George Mitchell is now known in some areas as the father of shale gas.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Actually, the interaction between those chemicals and groundwater is completely understood -- they DON'T.  Fracking, as you noted, happens a mile or more underground.  Groundwater is located at the most 3000 feet deep.  That 2000 foot difference between the two is SOLID ROCK.  If it wasn't solid, you wouldn't need to frac it.

heart_and_soul
heart_and_soul

@everlastingphelps  

Actually if it was solid you would not need to Frack it. It would not have pockets of gas in it. Duh.

You know it is pretty clear you have no idea what you are talking about. Just saying

drtz
drtz

@everlastingphelps 

My concern is with the fluids that decide to take a detour on the way down and don't make it past the 'SOLID ROCK.'

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@drtz @everlastingphelps That would involve a breach in the casing, which is unlikely, because it would cause a loss of fracking fluid, and would be sealed up before fracking.  There's two reasons you can be assured of this -- 1, the fracking fluid wouldn't be able to build up enough pressure to break up the deep rock if there were leaks higher up the stack, and 2, fracking fluid is expensive and they won't waste it on groundwater levels.


If 1 doesn't convince you, then 2 should.  I don't think I have to do much persuading on the "fracking companies are greedy" motive.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@arthurposter @everlastingphelps OMG, you found a possible case from 1984?  By all means, let's shut down a vibrant part of our economy and increase our dependence on Arab and South American dictators over a single case so old it could vote!

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@bmarvel I'm not a pimp.  I'm a citizen.  Reporters are the pimps (see pretty much anything by Schutze on the whole "sunlight is bad" building fight.)

bmarvel
bmarvel

@brantley.hargrove1 Difference between an actual reporter and a blog-commenter who's pimping for the gas industry. The actual reporter knows the answer.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@bmarvel @everlastingphelps no idea, ask the rr commission.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@everlastingphelpsSimple question, phelps. (well, okay, two questions): How many inspectors does the state have out checking well casings? And how many wells?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@SuperfuzzBigmuff Hardly.  But you are on the right track -- there's more danger of a spill on the surface than some sort of commingling in the bore.  The good news is that the method fracking uses means they can work a lot more of a deposit from one wellhead than they could before (by sinking one vertical bore and then horizontal drilling out like a star from that.)

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@everlastingphelps The BP disaster in the Gulf was also unlikely.....

clifford.carpenter
clifford.carpenter

@everlastingphelps Yeah and the Titanic was the unsinkable ship.  Sometimes bad things happen, it would be nice to know how the most likely bad things to happen could affect life as we know it before things go bad.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...