hydraulic fracturing

FracFocus Report: Helping us Paint a Fuller Picture

The following is an excerpt of a blog posted on EPA Connect, the Official Blog of EPA Leadership.

By Tom Burke

Portrait of Tom Burke

Thomas Burke, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development and EPA Science Advisor

Only a few years ago, very little was known about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Congress asked us to embark on a major effort to advance the state-of-the-science to accurately assess and identify those risks. Today, we are releasing a new report to provide a fuller picture of the information available for states, industry, and communities working to safeguard drinking water resources and protect public health.

The Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Data from the FracFocus Chemical Registry 1.0. is a peer-reviewed analysis built on more than two years of data provided by organizations that manage FracFocus, the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Operators disclosed information on individual oil and gas production wells hydraulically fractured between January 2011 and February 2013 and agency researchers then compiled a database from more than 39,000 disclosures.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Study: What’s the latest?

By Aaron Ferster

As a member of EPA’s science communication crew and the editor of our science blog, I’m always on the lookout for breaking news and good stories to share about Agency research. That’s why I as a bit dismayed during our daily team meeting Thursday morning when one of my colleagues mentioned seeing a newspaper headline announcing results from a widely-anticipated EPA study on hydraulic fracturing. Huh. How could I have missed that?

Before I could even begin to apologize for missing the big announcement (okay, maybe I daydream a little during early morning meetings if I have not had coffee yet), team members more familiar with the study—the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources—began to assure me and the rest of the gang that we had not missed anything. Not only is the study still going on, but draft results are not expected until late 2014 (after extensive, transparent scientific peer review).

EPA researchers are conducting the study in response to a 2010 request from Congress to address questions about hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. Since that time, to ensure an approach of openness and scientific rigor, the Agency has engaged in a wide variety of activities, including public meetings and webinars with stakeholders and others, technical roundtables, and workshops.

The Agency’s Science Advisory Board reviewed the draft study plan, and its recently-established Hydraulic Fracturing Research Panel will hold a public meeting this week (May 7– 8, 2013) in Arlington, VA. The meeting is an opportunity for Panel members to provide expert comments on questions associated with the research described in a study Progress Report released in December, 2012. Anyone is welcome to view the meeting via webcast on the Science Advisory Board website.

As part of EPA’s commitment to transparent stakeholder engagement and to ensure that the study is up-to-date with the latest changes and advancements in industry practices and technologies, it recently extended the deadline for the public to submit data and scientific publications to inform the literature review component of the study.  The new deadline is November 15, 2013. (The only effect this extension should have is to improve the scientific rigor of the study.)

With all that still in the works, I was easily convinced I had not missed any big announcements, and that there would still be plenty of opportunity to share Agency scoops here on the blog.  Just the same, I’ll be sure to get coffee before the next morning meeting.

About the author: Aaron Ferster is the editor of It All Starts with Science, and a frequent contributor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Around the Water Cooler: An Update on EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing Study

By Katie Wagner

Hydraulic fracturing is a horizontal drilling technique used to release natural gas and oil from underground reserves. In 2010, natural gas provided 25% of the energy for residential and industrial use in the U.S. The country has vast reserves of natural gas and the nation’s clean energy future relies on it.

The increased production of natural gas and oil from hydraulic fracturing has led to increasing concerns about its potential impact on human health and the environment, and a topic of scientific study.

In 2010, at the request of Congress, EPA initiated a national study to understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. To establish the study’s scope and plan, EPA held multiple meetings with stakeholders as well as technical workshops with experts.

The scope of the research is focused on the five stages of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle: water acquisition; chemical mixing; well injection; flowback and produced water; and wastewater treatment and waste disposal. The study plan is designed to answer research questions through the analysis of existing data, case studies, scenario evaluations (through computer modeling), laboratory studies, and toxicological studies.

Today, EPA announced the release of its report highlighting the progress it has made to date on the hydraulic fracturing study. The progress report summarizes the current status of 18 research projects undertaken as part of the study, and provides project-specific updates that include research approach, status, and next steps.

The report does not draw conclusions about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, and draft study results are expected in late 2014.

If you want to learn more about EPA’s research and download the Progress Report, look no further than EPA’s website on the Hydraulic Fracturing Study.

About the Author: Katie Wagner is a student contractor with the Science Communication Team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Science Wednesday:Getting the Word Out About EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Research

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Dayna Gibbons

As far as I’m concerned, daylight savings time could not have come at a better time. Last week, EPA released its final study plan to research the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. As a member of the science communications team, part of my job was to help ensure the study plan and a host of supporting material—from a press release to web site updates to @EPAresearch “tweets”—were ready so we could share the news. There was a lot to do, and by the weekend I was grateful to have an extra hour of sleep!

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as it’s more commonly called, is a stimulus technique that gas producers use to extract natural gas out of sources such as coalbeds and shale formations. (It’s also used for other applications, including oil recovery.) Many are hopeful that fracking will play a key role in unlocking natural gas from reserves across large areas of the U.S. Yet, concerns have been raised about the impact such practices might have on drinking water resources.

Toward the end of 2010, Congress directed EPA to conduct research to examine the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. Since then, EPA has engaged with the public, the scientific community, and interested stakeholders to ensure public input into the study’s design where appropriate. The draft plan went through a public comment period and was peer-reviewed by EPA’s Science Advisory Board to ensure a scientifically sound approach.

EPA’s study will answer questions across the full hydraulic fracturing water lifecycle. This means that the data our scientists collect will help us understand the potential impacts on water resources from the beginning to end of the fracking process—from using large amounts of ground and surface waters, to drilling activities and the use of chemicals and, finally, the management, disposal, and treatment of used water.

The first study results will be released in 2012, and the final report will be released in 2014. In addition, EPA will regularly host webinars—including today at 3:30pm and tomorrow at 2:30pm—and provide updates throughout the study in order to keep the public informed of the progress. I’m sure that will continue to keep me busy, but at least I have an extra hour of sleep under my belt.

About the author: Dayna Gibbons has worked in communications at EPA since 2002.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.