Oklahoma energy companies will have to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing under new rules approved by the state Corporation Commission.
The rules give companies the option of reporting at a website called Frac
Oklahoma would join six other states in requiring disclosure of the chemicals.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to break apart rock formations. The practice, which has been used in Oklahoma for decades, has become controversial as oil and gas drilling expanded into shale formations across the country.
Several Oklahoma companies, including Devon Energy Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp., already voluntarily list the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing at the FracFocus website.
The Oklahoma City-based Ground Water
Some already listed
Lori Wrotenbery, director of the Corporation Commission's oil and gas conservation division, said about 20 percent of the wells hydraulically fractured in Oklahoma have chemical disclosure reports on the FracFocus website. More than 460 Oklahoma wells were
“We get reports on the wells and the operators, and that number is growing rapidly,” Wrotenbery said.
Under the rules, companies are allowed to claim exemptions from public disclosure if they deem the chemical formulas trade secrets. But Wrotenbery said regulators would have access to that information.
“The agency can get that information in emergency response situations or in the investigation of complaints,” Wrotenbery said.
Mike Terry, president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said the energy industry is in favor of disclosing the chemicals in hydraulic fracturing. But companies differed in where the chemicals should be disclosed. The association prefers the Corporation Commission, he said.
“The majority of our members are familiar with the Corporation Commission and feel they have more say there in the rule-making process and through the election of the commissioners,” Terry said.
In public comments about the proposed rule, the Sierra Club said
“We think it's a great step forward and a great first step,” said David Ocamb, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club. “We look forward to expanding on the rule later.”
If approved by the Legislature, the rules would go into effect Jan. 1, 2013, for companies using hydraulic fracturing on horizontal wells. The rules would start in 2014 for companies fracturing other types of wells.
Wrotenbery said the two-step implementation will allow for additional time for smaller producers, who don't do much horizontal drilling, to become familiar with the reporting requirements.
We think it's a great step forward and a great first step. We look forward to expanding on the rule later.”