NATURAL GAS

Driller to disclose fracking chemicals

A natural gas producer operating in Pennsylvania has voluntarily agreed to disclose the chemicals used while drilling, in an effort to address environmental concerns of water contamination.

Range Resources Corp.'s decision comes as increasing pressure is placed on energy companies to account for environmental risks in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Natural gas drilling has become controversial as operations have expanded in the Marcellus Shale, an underground formation that extends through much of Pennsylvania and parts of neighboring states.

Range, based in Fort Worth, Texas, has agreed to disclose all chemicals and additives it uses and the quantities. "There has been so much misinformation about the Marcellus, we think it's prudent" to begin making this information public, said John Pinkerton, chairman and CEO, to The Wall Street Journal. The company owns leases for 1.3 million acres in the region.

Industry has traditionally demurred from disclosing chemicals, but opposition has waned.

Extracting natural gas by "fracking" requires drilling into impermeable rock using chemicals and thousands of gallons of water to release the gas.

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Range said that it used 4.5 million gallons of liquid for a simple fracture, and 99.8 percent of it was water and sand. Chemicals included "small amounts" of sodium hydroxide, ethylene glycol, hydrochloric acid and benzalkonium chloride. The chemicals are "comparable to household chemicals in a very diluted form," said Ray Walker, a Range executive.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said that the disclosure will help local residents test their water wells for contamination since they will now know what to look for (Russell Gold, Wall Street Journal, July 14). -- GV

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