FracFocus Report: Helping us Paint a Fuller Picture

By Tom Burke

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.

Our researchers reviewed and analyzed this information to identify the chemicals and better understand the amounts of water used for hydraulic fracturing. Our findings revealed that:

  • Water was used as the base fluid for hydraulic fracturing in 93% of the disclosures, with volumes ranging from 30,000 gallons to 7.2 million gallons per well;
  • 65% of all the disclosures we looked at included hydrochloric acid, methanol, and hydrotreated light petroleum distillates;
  • At least one chemical was identified as confidential business information in 70% of the disclosures analyzed, and;
  • Chemicals claimed as confidential business information accounted for some 11% of the chemical ingredient records in all.

In addition to the report, we are also releasing three related products to provide transparency into EPA’s methodology and to make the data easily available to others who are interested in learning about the chemicals and water volumes used for hydraulic fracturing. These include:

  1. state-level summaries of the chemicals and water used for hydraulic fracturing during the time of the study;
  2. A project database and the statistical codes needed to reproduce tables and figures from the report; and
  3. Microsoft Excel data tables presented in the report and the underlying data used to develop these tables.

This report is one part of the larger study, the Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources, and extensive literature reviews we are conducting to explore the hydraulic fracturing process, step-by-step, from water acquisition through waste disposal.

Working with the public, industry, NGOs, states and tribes, we have gathered information about how hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas is conducted across the country. We have held town hall-style meetings to hear concerns from communities, and we have looked at the constituents of hydraulic fracturing fluids used by nine hydraulic fracturing companies from 2005-2009, as well as information on water acquisition, well construction, location, practices, reports of spills, and wastewater management in 17 projects that support the study of potential impacts.

When the assessment is complete, EPA’s scientific work will result in a robust, rigorously peer reviewed study that connects as many dots as currently possible given the state of the science. And, states, tribes, industry and communities will have a fuller picture of what the science currently tells us when making important decisions about how to best protect water resources and safeguard public health.

View the report on FracFocus 1.0 data here:

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