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

US Forest Service takes no stance on fracturing in national forest

12/12/2014

The US Forest Service has dropped a proposal that would have banned hydraulic fracturing in the George Washington National Forest.

Frac ban exemption made in Broomfield

12/12/2014 A Colorado District Court judge has ruled that a hydraulic fracturing ban in Broomfield, Colo., does not apply to an operator that entered into an ...

OSHA seeks to limit silica exposure for oil workers, Proposed rules target frac sand mining, fracturing

12/12/2014 The rapid growth in oil and gas production from shale and tight oil formations in the US is generating a boom in a related industry: frac sand. San...

Study links methane contamination in water wells to poor well construction-not fracing-in Marcellus

12/12/2014 A new study found that fugitive gas contamination at eight clusters of water wells in the Marcellus and Barnett shale regions might be linked to we...

Weak crude prices could threaten Bakken production growth

12/12/2014 Bakken shale production set another record in August, but weakening crude prices and flaring reduction efforts threatened to temper production grow...

Husky reports start of steam operations at Sunrise oil sands project

12/12/2014

Husky Energy, Calgary, reported the start of steam operations at the in situ Sunrise Oil Sands Project in northeastern Alberta.

TAEP: TPI still peaking, but ‘contraction unavoidable’ as oil prices fall

12/12/2014 The Texas Petro Index (TPI), a composite index based on a comprehensive group of upstream economic indicators released by the Texas Alliance of Ene...

US needs more data before ending crude export ban, House panel told

12/11/2014 Much more environmental impact information is needed before the US can reasonably remove crude oil export limits, a witness told a House Energy and...

BOEM raises offshore oil spill liability limit to $134 million

12/11/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management increased the liability limit for oil-spill related damages from offshore operations to $134 million from ...

White Papers

AVEVA NET Accesses and Manages the Digital Asset

Global demand for new process plants, power plants and infrastructure is increasing steadily with the ...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Approach for the Digital Asset

To meet the requirements for leaner project execution and more efficient operations while transferring...
Sponsored by

Diversification - the technology aspects

In tough times, businesses seek to diversify into adjacent markets or to apply their skills and resour...
Sponsored by

Engineering & Design for Lean Construction

Modern marketing rhetoric claims that, in order to cut out expensive costs and reduce risks during the...
Sponsored by

Object Lessons - Why control of engineering design at the object level is essential for efficient project execution

Whatever the task, there is usually only one way to do it right and many more to do it wrong. In the c...
Sponsored by

Plant Design for Lean Construction - at your fingertips

One area which can provide improvements to the adoption of Lean principles is the application of mobil...
Sponsored by

How to Keep Your Mud System Vibrator Hose from Getting Hammered to Death

To prevent the vibrating hoses on your oilfield mud circulation systems from failing, you must examine...
Sponsored by

Duty of Care

Good corporate social responsibility means implementing effective workplace health and safety measures...
Sponsored by

Available Webcasts


On Demand

Optimizing your asset management practices to mitigate the effects of a down market

Thu, Dec 11, 2014

The oil and gas market is in constant flux, and as the price of BOE (Barrel of Oil Equivalent) goes down it is increasingly important to optimize your asset management strategy to stay afloat.  Attend this webinar to learn how developing a solid asset management plan can help your company mitigate costs in any market.

register:WEBCAST


Parylene Conformal Coatings for the Oil & Gas Industry

Thu, Nov 20, 2014

In this concise 30-minute webinar, participants have an opportunity to learn more about how Parylene coatings are applied, their features, and the value they add to devices and components.

register:WEBCAST


Utilizing Predictive Analytics to Optimize Productivity in Oil & Gas Operations

Tue, Nov 18, 2014

Join IBM on Tuesday, November 18 @ 1pm CST to explore how Predictive Analytics can help your organization maximize productivity, operational performance & associated processes to drive enterprise wide productivity and profitability.

register:WEBCAST


US HYDROCARBON EXPORTS Part 3 — LNG

Fri, Nov 14, 2014

US LNG Exports, the third in a trilogy of webcasts focusing on the broad topic of US Hydrocarbon Exports.

A discussion of the problems and potential for the export of US-produced liquefied natural gas.

These and other topics will be discussed, with the latest thoughts on U.S. LNG export policy.

register:WEBCAST


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