A congressional committee has requested information on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, setting up what looks to be a showdown over the technology used to extract natural gas from the Barnett Shale, the Marcellus Shale and other gas-bearing formations.
Meanwhile, two major oilfield services companies say that they've used diesel fuel and other dangerous chemicals to fracture wells, according to documents released by the congressional Energy and Commerce Committee.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process that involves injecting a mix of water, sand and chemicals into the gas-bearing rock formation under extremely high pressure. The pressure causes a web of tiny cracks, which allow gas to escape.
Two major oilfield services companies said that they used diesel fuel during hydraulic fracturing, violating an agreement between the companies and the EPA. BJ Services said it used 1,706 gallons of a diesel based slurry on two coal bed methane wells in Arkansas and Oklahoma, according to documents released by a Congressional committee. Halliburton said it used 807,000 gallons of fluid containing diesel at wells in 15 states. ( Read the story here, from Energy & Environmental News: Two oil-field companies acknowledge fracking with diesel -- 02-19-2010 )
In a memo, U.S. Rep. Henry Wasman also says the companies used fracturing fluids containing benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene -- all of which are known carcinogens. BJ Services admitted that some of the practices violated the agreement with the EPA. Hydraulic_fracturing_memo
The gas industry has used hydraulic fracturing for decades, and insists that it's safe. Some Texas residents, though, are worried about the potential for water pollution.
There's also the question of how to dispose of used fracturing fluids. ln Texas, operators prefer to use injection wells, which can potentially leak and cause water pollution. Fort Worth moratorium on injection wells, and city officials are working with the gas industry on recycling the fracturing fluid.
Read below the jump to see the news release from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. We've also got reaction from the trade publication Energy in Depth and from U.S. Rep. Diana Degette, who is sponsoring a bill that would impose regulations on hydraulic fracturing.
-- Mike Lee