The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

EPA Reviews Hydraulic Fracturing

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted September 10, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sent letters to several drilling companies requesting information about the chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids. EPA says the request is part of its study into the hydraulic fracturing practice.

As we've explained on this blog, hydraulic fracturing is a process that forces pressurized fluids--consisting of more than 99 percent water--down the wellbore to create tiny fissures in the rock, allowing oil and natural gas to flow more easily up through the well. The combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling is credited with greatly increasing U.S. natural gas supplies.

EPA also is conducting a series of public hearings on hydraulic fracturing. Next week large crowds are expected to attend two days of hearings in New York, where drilling companies want to explore for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation. In New York, no permits for horizontal, high volume drilling will be granted until the state's Department of Environmental Conservation finalizes its Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS).

Mike Doyle, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council, will testify at the hearings and deliver a message from API:

"We know there has been substantial public concern over the use of hydraulic fracturing and we recognize that any incident associated with oil and gas operations is one incident too many. API supports the EPA's ongoing scientific review of fracturing technology...We have offered the expertise housed within the industry to help answer critical questions...."

API is developing guidance for operating companies on well construction and integrity, water use and management, and surface environmental protections. Each of the guidance documents can be downloaded free-of-charge here.

The results of EPA's study are expected to be issued by the end of 2012.