NATURAL GAS:

Halliburton announces ecofriendly fracking fluid, more disclosure

Halliburton Co., which is fighting U.S. EPA about disclosure of its hydraulic fracturing fluid, today announced that it will publicly disclose detailed information on its website about the chemicals used in its fracturing fluids.

The Houston-based oilfield services company announced the creation of a new fracturing fluid that uses chemicals "sourced entirely from the food industry."

"Halliburton pioneered fracturing technology more than 60 years ago, but the safe and efficient use of this technology has never been more important or in greater demand than it is right now," said David Adams, vice president of Halliburton's production enhancement product service line. "We believe we've effectively set a new standard for how unconventional resources may be accessed and produced in the future."

The disclosure website shows that many of the chemicals used in fracturing are as benign as food additives. "Guar gum," for example, is a thickener used in ice cream and fruit jelly. It also lists concentrations.

But it also lists more dangerous ingredients, such as the petroleum distillate called naptha, which is used in cleaners, car wax and paint thinner. There are also several chemicals, sometimes considered hazardous, used in household cleansers and others used in agriculture as microbiocide agents.

"We believe this effort represents an important and substantive contribution to the broader long-term imperative of transparency," Adams said. "While the initial focus of the additive disclosure pages are limited to activities taking place in Pennsylvania, where development of the Marcellus Shale is already well under way, the company is committed to continuing to provide hydraulic fracturing fluid disclosure information for every U.S. state in which Halliburton's fracture stimulation services are in use."

But environmentalists say more information is still needed and should be required by federal regulators.

"The public wants to know what chemicals are being used near drinking water sources," said Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "While it's nice to see Halliburton acknowledging that desire, it's not meaningful or sufficient unless this information is fully disclosed on a site-by-site basis."

She said it is unclear on the Halliburton website whether the list includes all chemicals being used or only some. "So," she said, "more details are necessary."

A Halliburton spokesman said that the individual, well-by-well data, is owned by the oil and gas companies that hire Halliburton, so the company could not disclose that if it wanted to.

Toxins like naptha are not in the new, more environmentally friendly fluid introduced by Halliburton today.

Still, some of the ingredients are considered hazardous by government regulators even though they are used in food, Halliburton said. An example is "inorganic acid," used in cheese, alcoholic beverages and rust dissolver.

"That's why we insist on employing the best practices available when it comes to handling those fluids, transporting them, storing them, and using them to help our customers produce energy for the American people," the company states on its website.

Mall said the more environmentally friendly fluid shows "that industry has the technology to economically operate in much cleaner ways than it is now."

Disclosure a key issue

The extent of public disclosure of fracturing fluid has been a significant issue as gas drilling has spread into areas, such as the Northeast, that are not as comfortable with petroleum products as Western states.

Democrats in Congress, including Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, have introduced legislation called the "FRAC Act," to lift fracturing's exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It would also require public disclosure on the Internet of fracturing fluid chemicals.

Drilling companies have generally said they favor "disclosure" but often that does not include the public. Instead, they are willing to disclose ingredients to regulators and, in the event of medical emergencies, physicians.

In its most recent statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Halliburton said that federal or state requirements to disclose the composition of fracturing fluid would be a regulatory burden that could decrease profits. But it did not say that the disclosure would hurt its business.

Last week, EPA subpoenaed Halliburton for information on fracturing chemicals. Eight other major drilling companies also received the request from EPA for the information, and all have complied or promised action by December.

"EPA believes that Halliburton's response is inadequate and inconsistent with the cooperation shown to date by the other eight companies," said Peter Silva, EPA's assistant administrator for water.

Halliburton called the agency's information request unreasonable and said it was disappointed with the agency's decision.

EPA requested the information as part of a study of whether fracturing contaminates drinking water (Greenwire, Oct. 29).

Environmental groups have already asked for an investigation into disclosures from Halliburton and competitor BJ Services that they used diesel in fracturing jobs after a congressional debate in which the industry said it did not use diesel (Greenwire, Aug. 5)

In July, Range Resources, said it would start submitting detailed chemical information to Pennsylvania regulators as part of Range's well completion reports and on the company's website (Greenwire, July 15).

State approaches vary

States have taken widely different approaches to disclosure.

Colorado, which overhauled its oil and gas laws in 2007, requires companies to maintain a well-by-well chemical inventory for the life of the well plus five years. Companies do not have to file the list with state regulators but are required to provide it to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission if asked. The agency can share the information with health officials, or a treating physician, subject to a confidentiality agreement. The inventory can be shared more broadly if the company does not request trade secret protection.

Wyoming's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission decided earlier this year to order drillers to report the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to commission staff, the first such requirement in the nation. Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) directed the agency to draft the rules as a way to assure federal officials that Wyoming adequately regulates fracturing.

Earlier this month, two companies asked Wyoming regulators for their fracturing chemicals to remain trade secrets, exempt from the new rules requiring public disclosure (Greenwire, Nov. 2).

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection requires material safety data sheets to be attached to every drilling plan, which is available to landowners, local governments and emergency responders.

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