The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

A Move for Effective and Efficient Fracking Regulation

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 21, 2013

Legislation passed by the U.S. House would help preserve effective state regulation of hydraulic fracturing by limiting InteriorDepartment enforcement of unnecessary fracking rules on public lands. Effective regulation has an important role in safe andresponsible energy development, and states are best positioned to do just that. Erik Milito, API’s director of upstream andindustry operations:

“Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are safe, proven technologies that have allowed the U.S. tooutpace Russia as the world’s number one producer of oil and natural gas. Job growth, energy security, andgovernment revenue are all rising due to the U.S. energy revolution, and state regulators are in the best positionto preserve America’s progress while protecting our natural resources with rules tailored to local hydrology,geology, and natural resources.”

The combination of advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling launched the current shale energy revolution in America– a surge that can continue with increased access to oil and natural gas reserves, including those on public lands, and common-sense regulation led by the states. In terms of future economic growth and greater security in the world, U.S. shale energy is agame-changer. Below are 10 things everyone should know about it:

1. Fracking will account for almost 75 percent of future natural gas development

Without hydraulic fracturing, the United States would lose 45 percent of domestic natural gas production and 17 percent of oilproduction within five years, according to an IHS Global Insight study.

2. Economic impacts of developing shale resources are revolutionary

Oil and natural gas development from shale supported more than 2.1 million jobs in 2012 and will support more than 3.3 millionjobs by 2020, according to IHS. Affordable natural gas is rejuvenating America’s chemical, manufacturing and steelindustries. The entire unconventional oil and natural gas value chain and energy-related chemicals will add nearly $533 billionannually in value-added contributions to GDP by 2025. It will contribute more than $125 billion annually in federal and stategovernment revenues, while increasing average disposable income per household to more than $3,500 by 2025 – up from morethan $1,200 in 2012.

3. Robust state and federal hydraulic fracturing regulations already exist

A comprehensive list of state, local and federal laws address nearly every aspect of exploration and production – from well design and water use to air emissions and surface impacts:

eid_fracking_statutes

As Milito said above, states are in the best position to regulate fracking because laws can be tailored to account for local geology, hydrology and other factors – a point recognized by current and former administration officials. The State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) helps states develop effective regulatory regimes. States also exchange information on regulatory practices and experiences through organizations including the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Groundwater Protection Council.   

4. Industry has standards and practices for continuous improvement in energy development

API’s standards program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It includes detailed provisions that apply to hydraulic fracturing. These provide a roadmap for responsible operators, from permitting for development to land reclamation after well closure.

5. Careful well construction keeps groundwater safe

Each well has multiple layers of steel casing and cementing to effectively protect groundwater. Fracturing typically occurs thousands of feet below aquifers, with multiple layers of rock in between. Most modern wells feature sensitive monitoring equipment and are supervised by experienced, highly trained technicians.

fracking_process_diagram

6. Fracturing fluid contents, mostly water, are disclosed

Typically, the fluid used to fracture the shale layers containing natural gas and/or oil is about 90 percent water and 9.5 percent sand. The rest, less than 1 percent, are additives that aid well production by reducing friction and preventing corrosion. The FracFocus.org website, run by the Groundwater Protection Council, is a clearinghouse of information on fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, searchable by well or well location.

 frack_fluid_contents

7. Water is managed effectively and fluids handled to prevent spills

Although fracking operations use considerable volumes of water, that use actually is small compared to other industrial and recreational activities. An example from Pennsylvania:

pa_water_use

During permitting, operators must show that their water use and management plans won’t adversely affect others in the region during times of drought or flooding. Spill prevention on the site, response and cleanup procedures are put in place before drilling begins. Typically, the entire drill site or pad is covered by liners and rubber mats that keep any fluid that might be spilled from reaching the ground. Appropriate on-site employees and contract personnel are trained in safe and proper transportation, transfer and containment of fluids and materials.

8. Wastes from production are managed responsibly

Waste management is conducted in accordance with applicable state and federal laws, as well as OSHA regulations. Fracturing fluids are recovered for reuse in future operations or treated and injected into Class II wells as authorized by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

9. Hydraulic fracturing doesn’t cause earthquakes

Seismologists and geologists have determined that fracking doesn’t produce vibrations of noticeable size, and there’s no evidence it causes earthquakes. Most recent reports of seismic activity have stemmed from underground injection of wastes – a practice strictly regulated by EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program that has existed for more than 30 years.

10. Air emissions from production are carefully monitored, managed and reported

Emissions from oil and natural gas activity must remain within prescribed state and federal limits to protect local communities. Industry has steadily improved its ability to reduce emissions through voluntary measures and is working with EPA to define New Source Performance Standards that will give rise to additional reductions by requiring measures like green completions techniques.  

Safe and responsible development of our shale energy resources is what our industry strives to do, even as we improve technologies and processes. Every industrial activity comes with risks, yet the benefits to our economy and modern lifestyles of reliable energy from oil and natural gas argue for effective management of those risks. They argue against efforts to use regulation and review processes to halt progress. U.S. Sen. Angus King spoke to that point during a forum this week on the infrastructure approval process:

“The real problem is hidden, because it’s the projects that never happen because of these barriers. It’s the opportunity cost, it’s the project where people sit around a table and say, ‘The hell with it. This is just too much trouble, it’s too much expense. We’ll never make it.’ It’s a kind of regulatory exhaustion-in-advance phenomenon. That’s a loss to society. … If people self-regulate, if people stop doing things because of regulatory barriers then we’re in trouble as a society.” 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.