EPA launches hydraulic fracturing study

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor
WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 18 – The US Environmental Protection Agency initiated a comprehensive study of hydraulic fracturing to determine whether the tight shale gas production technology potentially could have an adverse impact on ground and surface water supplies.

Responding to language in its fiscal 2010 budget, EPA said on Mar. 18 that it would reallocate $1.9 million for the peer-reviewed study this year and request funding to continue it in fiscal 2011, which begins on Oct. 1, 2010.

“Our research will be designed to answer questions about the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on human health and the environment,” said Paul T. Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Research and Development Office. “The study will be conducted through a transparent, peer-reviewed process, with significant stakeholder input.”

Oil and gas associations welcomed the news. The American Petroleum Institute said it expects EPA’s study to confirm what 60 years of experience and investigation have shown: that hydraulic fracturing is a safe and well understood technology for producing oil and gas.

“We hope the agency will provide ample opportunity for stakeholder comment and participation,” API said. “Our members are experts on well construction and development, and on safe and effective hydraulic fracturing operations.”

Natural Gas Supply Association President R. Skip Horvath said he believes EPA’s study will show that concerns about groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing are unfounded as long as producers comply with numerous existing and stringent state regulations.

“Production from shale formations is the nation’s fastest growing source of natural gas, contributing to an unprecedented 39% increase in the estimated size of the gas resource base since 2006,” Horvath said. “In Pennsylvania alone, the production of natural gas from shale has created 50,000 new jobs in 2008 and 2009.”

Opportunity, responsibility
Regina Hopper, president of America’s Natural Gas Alliance. Said the gas community looks forward to working with EPA.

“With the extraordinary opportunity presented by our nation’s gas abundance comes the responsibility to be good stewards of the land,” Hopper said. “Our members take this responsibility seriously, and we look forward to sharing with EPA the extensive work done at every step of the gas extraction process.”

Lee O. Fuller, executive director of Energy in Depth, said he welcomed another study on this issue. Energy in Depth is an oil and gas educational organization.

“Hydraulic fracturing is one of the US oil and gas industry’s crowning achievements, enabling us to produce energy supplies at enormous depths with surgical precision and unrivaled environmental safety records,” Fuller said. “And, simply put, new innovations are making these technologies better and better by the day, a fact widely recognized by the agencies that regulate hydraulic fracturing in energy-producing states,” he maintained.

Groups and federal lawmakers seeking heavier regulation of the technology also welcomed the announcement.

“An earlier EPA study into hydraulic fracturing, conducted during the Bush administration, was widely discredited,” said Jessica Ennis, a legislative associate at the Earthjustice environmental organization. “By committing to a serious, peer-reviewed study and expediting the necessary funds, [administrator] Lisa Jackson’s EPA is demonstrated that this issue is indeed an agency priority, as well as it should be.”

‘Significant step’
US Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who introduced a bill with Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) that would regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act, also said that EPA’s new study would be the first comprehensive effort. The agency’s 2004 study stopped short of the full scientific assessment and independent assessment which is required, she said.

“This study may be a challenge, given that companies are not currently required to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids,” said DeGette. “But it will be a significant step in ensuring that our nation’s drinking water supply is protected.”

Hinchey said that he was pleased that EPA decided to begin a study examining risks hydraulic fracturing pose to drinking water supplies in New York and across the country. He said that it was an important and necessary step “since EPA’s 2004 study on the matter was marred by biased data influenced by senior officials in the previous administration.”

EPA said that it is in the very early stages of designing a hydraulic fracturing program. It is a proposing a process to define research questions and identify data gaps. Next, there would be a process gathering comments and identifying priorities. This would lead to development of a detailed study design for external peer review, leading to implementation of the planned research studies.

To support initial planning and to guide the plan’s development, the agency said that it is seeking suggestions and comments from its Science Advisory Board, an independent, external federal advisory committee. EPA said that it has asked the board’s Environmental Engineering Committee to evaluate and provide advice on the agency’s planned approach. It said that it would use this advise and “extensive stakeholder input” to guide the study’s design.
Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

Related Articles

EIA: US oil output fell 50,000 b/d in May

07/07/2015 Total US crude oil production dropped 50,000 b/d in May compared with April and is expected to continue falling through early 2016 before growth re...

BLM approves ROW for Elko gas pipeline expansion project

07/07/2015 The US Bureau of Land Management’s Tuscarora, Nev., field office signed a decision record approving a right-of-way for Paiute Pipeline Co.’s (PPC) ...

Obama urged by IPAA president to lift ban on US crude exports

07/07/2015 Commending the administration for its actions allowing some condensate to be exported as a petroleum product, Independent Petroleum Association of ...

Cidade de Itaguai FPSO anchors in Lula field

07/07/2015 Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) reported that the Cidade de Itaguai floating production, storage, and offloading vessel has arrived at the Irace...

AER shuts in 16 Murphy Oil sites in Peace River region for noncompliance

07/07/2015 Alberta Energy Regulator said it has shut in or partially shut in 16 sites operated by Murphy Oil Co. Ltd. in the Peace River region. The sites wer...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX, Brent oil prices take dive on world oil oversupply concerns

07/07/2015 US light, sweet crude oil prices plummeted more than $4/bbl on the New York market July 6, marking a 5-month low, while Brent crude oil prices on t...

WAFWA: Aerial survey finds lesser prairie chicken population grew

07/06/2015 A recent range-wide aerial survey found the lesser prairie chicken population rose 25% from 2014 to 2015, the Western Association of Fish & Wil...

Production ramps up from Sunrise oil sands project

07/06/2015 Husky Energy Inc., Calgary, reported that 25 well pairs are now on production at its Sunrise oil sands project in northeastern Alberta. Steaming is...

Buru awarded onshore Canning licenses

07/06/2015 Buru Energy Ltd., Perth, and Mitsubish Corp. have been granted two production licenses for Ungani oil field in the onshore Canning basin of Western...
White Papers

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected