EnergyWire reports a Pennsylvania judge has ordered a major drilling operator to disclose the full chemical composition of its fracking fluid.
Turns out, that’s not an easy task, according to court documents that show Range Resources does not know the makeup of the products it uses to extract natural gas from shale.
Range sought data from suppliers of 55 fracking-related products, but only four were able to provide the necessary details by March 25. Others did not respond, refused on proprietary grounds or required additional information to carry out the request.
“You’re talking parts per billion of different products that are used to make a specific additive,” [Range spokesman Matt] Pitzarella said, explaining the delay. “The way they list that information, you’d still have to get that from a manufacturer.”
He called it “unfair” to single out the oil and gas industry, noting that it would be difficult for anyone to list the exact contents and concentrations in a can of chili or a Coca-Cola.
The judge’s order was part of the discovery phase of a Washington County man’s appeal against Range and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over allegations the operator contaminated the man’s water well. A DEP employee made headlines last fall when a deposition from the Kiskadden case revealed the agency had been withholding information about about water contamination related to natural gas drilling.
The Huffington Post posted court documents online that show Range Resources hit road blocks when it attempted to get information from chemical suppliers.
One example on the list is Airfoam HD, a type of surfactant used to release gas from wells. The list indicates that Range sent an email and made a phone call seeking a full list of components of the product, but had not yet received a response. “Phone call and follow-up email requesting that we resend MSDS [Material Safety Data Sheet]. Awaiting additional information,” Range’s note states.
According to the notes, the company that provides another product, known as Flo Stop P, informed Range that it doesn’t actually produce the product, they just apply a label to it and resell it. The reseller could not provide additional information about the contents. Other companies said they would not provide the information without a protective order.
One company, Hi-Mar Specialties, declined to provide additional information about its defoaming agent Hi-Mar DFC-503, saying that the information was “proprietary” and disclosure “would cause substantial harm to Hi-Mar’s business,” according to Range’s filing.
“Range admits that it does not have an all-encompassing knowledge of the complete chemical formula of every product used at the Yeager Site by Range and/or its subcontractors, as some products contain proprietary compounds which may not be known to Range and many of the MSDS do not list the non-hazardous components of products,” the company’s environmental engineering manager stated in another document…
Under the state’s new drilling law known as Act 13, companies are required to submit reports to DEP detailing chemicals used during fracking. The lists are published on FracFocus.org, which has become a controversial national clearinghouse for fracking disclosure information.
Critics say that the DEP can’t possibly enforce that requirement if Range itself says it doesn’t have a full accounting of all the chemicals used in its processes. “How can Range Resources ever claim they aren’t responsible for contaminating the water and air now that they have admitted they don’t even know what chemicals they’re using?” said Jesse White, a state representative from the 46th district that has been a vocal critic of the natural gas industry. “If they don’t know what’s in there, what can they test for?”