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Fracking Website Bringing Disclosures Into Focus

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jason Allen
Jason came to North Texas after working as a reporter for four y...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Gas producers in North Texas are now required to publicly disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, and the amount of water they use to do it.

The Texas Railroad Commission is requiring the rule for any permits issued after February 1. The information will be posted on the website FracFocus.org.

Residents won’t have to wait to go through the information. Operators in Texas have been voluntarily entering information for about half the wells in the state since last year. It already reveals trends in the industry’s water use.

CBS11 went through the data for 362 wells in Tarrant County. Each well used an average of 4,051,602 gallons of water. The industry commonly says it take three to five million gallons of water to frack a well in the Barnett Shale. The data also reveals though a clear disparity in the amount each operator uses to accomplish the fracturing.

MORE:  Waterless Fracking Method Targets Natural Gas Industry’s Gaze

Devon Energy only reports using about 1.6 million gallons of water per well. XTO uses 3.4 million gallons on average in its 125 wells. Major producer Chesapeake averaged 4.8 million gallons of water.

Companies and industry analysts we contacted said they had not seen a comparison between companies before, but said there was likely no single answer for the differences. A Chesapeake representative said thicker rock in the heart of the shale may account for the need for more water. A Devon representative said the company focuses on drilling in rural areas, where smaller lease agreements with mineral owners sometimes limit the length wells are drilled horizontally. Urban drillers, like Chesapeake, often sign larger blocks of leases, leading to longer horizontal drills requiring more water.

Information on the horizontal length of the drill is not included on the FracFocus site, something some critics point to as a flaw.

“There are just so many factors, we don’t really know if those numbers are truly accurate,” said Arlington’s Jane Lynn.

Judy Wood, with Fort Worth’s League of Women Voters has advocated for less water use by operators.
She said she was thrilled to hear some operators are using less water, but said any use is still a concern because of what happens to it.

“Most of it is lost,” she said. “Unless they recapture it in some way, reclaim it in some way, recycle it in some way, it is gone for good.”

The FracFocus site is designed as a chemical registry. Companies in Texas do not have to reveal chemicals used in fracking fluid though that are trade secrets. Colorado recently passed a rule requiring companies to reveal those chemicals in the event of an emergency spill. They also have to give them to doctors who are attempting to diagnose or treat a patient where the makeup of the fluid may be a factor.

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