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Future of Fracking Hinges on Transparency

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"Just as you can see what's in a can of Coke by turning it around, people have a right to know what chemicals we're using in their communities," says one oil and gas CEO.

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Like many environmentalists, Chris Faulkner would like for the oil and gas industry to be more transparent about the chemicals it uses in hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

Difference is, Faulkner is the CEO of Irving, Texas-based Breitling Oil & Gas.

"Our industry likes to use a lot of terms like 'confidential,' and 'trade secret' when talking about the composition of fracking fluid," he tells Minyanville. "But, words like that tend to get people from zero to 'I'm very, very upset' extremely quickly." (And upset they are: in April, a South New Berlin, NY man who returned home to find the pro-fracking sign in his front yard defaced with a swastika and the words, "N**ger go home.")

Faulkner says this sort of openness is "vitally important," even as a large number of drilling companies continue to fight against revealing their proprietary formulas.

Though some states have implemented disclosure rules, exemptions have been granted with some regularity.

According to Jeremy Fugelberg of the Casper, Wyoming Star-Tribune, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission "granted…trade secret exemptions" to CESI Chemical Inc., Nalco Co. (NLC), CalFrac Well Services Corp., Multi-Chem Group LLC, Baker Hughes (BHI), Halliburton Energy Services Inc. (HAL), BJ Services Co., Core Lab Reservoir Optimization (CLB), SNF Inc., Spectrum Tracer Services, and Water Mark Technologies Inc.

"By and large, that argument is specious," Kent Moors, scholar in residence at Duquesne University's Institute for Energy and the Environment, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last month.

Faulkner explains that listing ingredients in fracking fluid is no more likely to expose confidential information than listing ingredients on the products found at your local Safeway (SWY).

"For the most part, fracking fluids are made by vendors, not in-house," he says. "Just as you can see what's in a can of Coke (KO) by turning it around, people have a right to know what chemicals we're using in their communities. We can list those out without any negative effects whatsoever."

An August report [PDF] issued by the Department of Energy's Shale Gas Subcommittee "stresses the importance of a process of continuous improvement in the various aspects of shale gas production that relies on best practices and is tied to measurement and disclosure."

It continues:

"The approach benefits all parties in shale gas production: regulators will have more complete and accurate information; industry will achieve more efficient operations; and the public will see continuous, measurable improvement in shale gas activities."

Faulkner is quick to point out that the oil and gas industry has not done as good a job of educating the public about fracking as the method's opponents have.

"The only way to get people behind you is to bring them into the fold," he says. "They're concerned, and rightfully so."

This, Faulkner believes, would greatly reduce the fears many have concerning fracking under any circumstances, including skepticism over an "unproven" technology, which is, in Faulkner's opinion, misplaced.

"Most people believe fracking is brand new," Faulkner points out. "In fact, we've fracked over a million wells in the United States since 1961."
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