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Oil field services firm Baker Hughes says that it is considering disclosing all of the chemicals it uses in its fracking operations. In a statement posted on its website April 24, the company said it “believes it is possible to disclose 100 percent of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations — a balance that increases public trust while encouraging commercial innovation.”
Baker Hughes said it believes that making its chemical use transparent will enhance public trust in fracking, which has been shaken by reports of negative health consequences for people who live near drilling sites. A jury in Texas just awarded a family $3 million in damages after they suffered health problems as a result of a fracking site near their home.
The fact that Baker Hughes explicitly said it would divulge 100 percent of the chemicals it uses suggests that it would not make exceptions for trade secrets. But the company did say that it would only disclose the chemicals “where accepted by our customers and relevant government authorities.” It is conceivable that a firm contracting out Baker Hughes for drilling operations would object to the disclosure.
Several large oil companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, have resisted shareholder advocacy campaigns calling on them to disclose, but they have resisted, saying such a move is unnecessary because they already report everything to state regulators.
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Now, the fact that Baker Hughes believes it will not lose a competitive edge by disclosing its entire slate of chemicals will put greater pressure on other companies to follow suit. At the very least, it sets a new standard for transparency in the oil and gas sector.
Some companies have voluntarily disclosed the chemicals they use during fracking on the web site FracFocus.org (a website partially funded by Department of Energy and the shale industry) but many companies avoid listing all of them, citing trade secrets.
According to a DOE study, about 84 percent of wells registered on FracFocus.org do not have data on the chemicals used because of trade secrets.
The federal government is set to finalize regulations on fracking on public lands later this year, which would require full disclosure of chemicals.
By Charles Kennedy of OIlprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com