Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals

by Shannon Julius

Hydraulic fracturing requires a large quantity of fluid; most estimates place the amount at 2 to 4 million gallons per well. This fluid is composed of 90% water, 8–9.5% proppants (sand which is needed to keep fractures open once hydraulic fracturing occurs), and 0.5–2% chemicals. Companies that perform hydraulic fracturing invest time and resources into creating their fracturing fluid formulas, so they insist on keeping those formulas proprietary because revealing the information could cause the company to lose its competitive edge. However, some common fracturing chemicals have been identified and are known to cause adverse human health effects, so keeping the composition of fracturing fluid confidential could be dangerous in the case of an emergency situation. Even in normal operating circumstances, these fracturing fluids could theoretically make their way into surface water or groundwater because hydraulic fracturing creates new flow paths through deep shale formations and speeds up the natural flow of fluids closer to the surface or aquifers. Maule et al. (2013) investigated recent efforts to regulate the disclosure of fracturing chemicals. Current systems in place include a voluntary reporting website, limited state regulation, and no federal regulation. Regulation efforts have faced problems of exemptions or loopholes, inadequate or incomplete information reporting, lack of enforcement, and competing state and federal interests. Continue reading