Proposed Texas chemical disclosure rule could 'demystify' fracing

A proposed hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure rule for Texas would help “demystify” the chemicals used and could reassure the public, Andrew Barron, Rice University's chemistry professor, told the Railroad Commission of Texas during an Oct. 5 hearing in Austin, Tex., on the proposed rule.

“We need to specifically identify the chemicals being used in fracing or demystify them,” Barron said.

“I know that if people are told that a major portion of the fluid used in fracing is oxidane, they become very curious. Simply put, oxidane is water.”

The rule will implement House Bill 3328, enacted by the Texas Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Perry. State regulators are accepting comment on a draft of the rule, which could be finalized by yearend.

The proposed rule calls for companies to use the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number to identify the composition of frac fluids.

Barron said the CAS number would remove confusion. The use of CAS numbers make disclosure of chemicals more transparent for suppliers, shippers, end users, and the public, he said. Many chemicals are known by common names but these common names can depend on language or culture, he said.

Some oil and gas companies already voluntary post the composition of their frac fluids on their own web sites.

The proposed rule would require companies to list their frac fluids on a public web site, FracFocus.org. The web site is a joint project of the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission. Some oil companies already voluntarily post their information on it.

The Texas Legislature authorized exceptions to disclosure for ingredients considered to be proprietary or trade secrets. The trade secrets designation can be appealed, but only by the landowner where the frac job happen or by an adjacent landowner.

Kathryn Baecht of the nonprofit Citizens Organizing for Resources & Environment, questioned the volumes of water used for fracing.

“That fact that we’re taking millions of gallons of water out of the hydraulic cycle is a crime,” Baecht said.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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