The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Natural Gas Subcommittee released a draft report on August 11 that makes recommendations regarding the safety and environmental performance of hydraulic fracturing from shale formations. Manufacturers, users of one-third of the energy consumed in the United States, agree with the Subcommittee’s characterization of natural gas as “a cornerstone of the U.S. economy.” Unfortunately, the call for increased regulation of hydraulic fracturing is a reason for concern.
The Subcommitee’s recommendations include:
- Required disclosure of all chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluid – Many companies that manufacture this fluid voluntarily disclose the chemicals they use through the Frac Focus registry. Additional mandatory disclosure requirements may discourage manufacturers from developing new fluids if they know that competitors can easily find their exact “recipe.”
- New air emission standards – Comprehensive Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules are already in place or are in the process of being revised. Additional regulation would be redundant, confusing, expensive and unnecessary.
- Reduction in the usage of diesel engines at fracturing sites – This sweeping recommendation does not take into consideration that there may be no economically viable alternative to using a diesel engine at some wells.
Hydraulic fracturing is a critical process that has allowed the U.S. to take advantage of its rich shale gas resources. The majority of natural gas wells have used hydraulic fracturing, and there have been 4.3 million wells drilled in North America over 150 years. Current state regulations have been effective in protecting the environment. Manufacturers urge caution as the DOE moves forward with its final recommendations – additional federal regulations could put the brakes on a technology that is creating jobs and providing more affordable energy for all Americans.