FracFocus, the website drillers use to disclose chemicals in hydraulic fracturing, is revamping its system next week to let regulators for the first time search and aggregate the information.
The industry-backed system, which is used by drillers such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC), is resolving a criticism from environmental groups by converting the online information into a database of chemicals used in individual wells that can be analyzed, said Stan Belieu, deputy director of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, who testified on behalf of FracFocus today at a Senate forum.
“The improvements that are going to be made to FracFocus will be a substantial improvement,” Mark Brownstein, associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said today at the Senate forum on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. For regulators, “this helps them target resources and enforcement.”
FracFocus is a voluntary registry of the chemicals used in fracking. Of 18 states that require companies to disclose their chemicals, 11 require or allow the reporting to be on FracFocus. The Bureau of Land Management proposed last week that it would use the system for drillers on federal lands.
The online registry, created in April 2011, has collected and published its information in online document form. To analyze that information across wells would require the user to extract and enter the data into their own database, Belieu said today.
As of June 1, all information must be submitted, and can be accessed, in a database, he said. Each state will determine how much information, and in which form, it will be available.
FracFocus is a response to public concern about fracking, in which producers shoot a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to access oil and natural gas in dense rock formations. Environmental groups still complain that drillers can keep confidential too many of their chemicals, and that neither the data nor the group is governed by state or federal disclosure rules.
“The issue is that FracFocus is still not a public entity,” Deb Nardone, the head of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Gas campaign, said today at the forum.
FracFocus is operated by the Ground Water Protection Council, a group of state water officials; and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, an association of states that produce the fuels.