Despite vigorous opposition from industry, it appears state regulators and the general public will have broad access to documents detailing chemicals used in oil and gas drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other drilling operations.
Wyoming is set to implement new rules forcing the oil and gas industry to reveal such information beginning Sept. 15.
While the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission doesn't plan to make special efforts to compile and present the information to the public, agency officials say the information will be readily available.
Operators must disclose the information within regular permitting, sundry and other documentation they submit to the agency. The documentation is listed on a well-by-well basis on the commission's website (wogcc.state.wy.us).
"I think if there's an incident, people should have a better feel for what went into the wells," said commission supervisor Tom Doll. "We'll see exactly what they pumped into the well. Further, they have to report what comes out of the well after they've completed the (well stimulations)."
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process used to crack open rock and shale deep underground to stimulate the flow of hydrocarbons. The process is credited for vastly increasing America's potential natural gas reserve -- by as much as 35 percent in recent years.
But fracking has also come under scrutiny in the Rockies and particularly in the eastern United States, for fear the process could contaminate drinking water supplies. Many different chemicals can be used in fracking, and the industry insisted it didn't have to disclose individual recipes because companies considered those proprietary.
While a company may request that specific fluid blends be kept confidential, Doll said he's not going to be easily persuaded on the matter.
"We're going to make it a little more difficult for companies to claim information is confidential," said Doll.
That goes for other aspects of drilling, such as initial production. Typically, an operator can request that initial production from a well be held in confidence by the commission for the first six months of production if the well is a "wildcat" or the first well in a field.
"That's gotten loose in recent years. I've reviewed that rule and I will not be as lax with enforcement there as we've been in the past," said Doll.
Several citizen and resource conservation groups have organized in recent years to urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review fracking and even regulate it under the Safe Drinking Water Act. But several states want to maintain regulatory control over the practice, including Wyoming.
The commission took up the fracking chemical reporting rule at the insistence of Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who also serves on the five-member commission board. It was passed unanimously in June, but at the time it was unclear how the commission would implement the rule and whether the commission would share fracking chemical information with the public.
Doll said concerned citizens should have the type of information they're looking for once the rules go into effect Sept. 15.
Deb Thomas is a community organizer who focuses on drilling and resource issues in Clark and Pavillion. She said she was surprised and pleased that the state is promising broad public disclosure regarding fracking fluids.
"That would be huge. It would be very useful for anyone who is exposed to the fluids," said Thomas.
From Chapter 3, Section 45 of the "operational rules, drilling rules" of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission:
* (d) The Owner or Operator shall provide detailed information to the Supervisor as to the base stimulation fluid source. The Owner or Operator or service company shall provide to the Supervisor, for each stage of the well stimulation program, the chemical additives, compounds and concentrations or rates proposed to be mixed and injected, including:
* (i) Stimulation fluid identified by additive type (such as but not limited to acid, biocide, breaker, brine, corrosion inhibitor, crosslinker, demulsifier, friction reducer, gel, iron control, oxygen scavenger, pH adjusting agent, proppant, scale inhibitor, surfactant);
* (ii) The chemical compound name and Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number shall be identified (such as the additive biocide is glutaraldehyde, or the additive breaker is aluminum persulfate, or the proppant is silica or quartz sand, and so on for each additive used);
* (iii) The proposed rate or concentration for each additive shall be provided (such as gel as pounds per thousand gallons, or biocide at gallons per thousand gallons, or proppant at pounds per gallon, or expressed as percent by weight or percent by volume, or parts per million, or parts per billion);
* (iv) The Owner or Operator or service company may also provide a copy of the contractor's proposed well stimulation program design including the above detail;
* (v) The Supervisor may request additional information under this subsection prior to the approval of the Application for Permit to Drill (Form 1) or of the Sundry Notice (Form 4);
* (vi) The Supervisor retains discretion to request from the Owner or Operator and/or the service company, the formulary disclosure for the chemical compounds used in the well stimulation(s).