The Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) announced their approval of the full disclosure of frac’ing fluid materials in Texas. But the real issue, as explained by Teri Donaldson, partner with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, will be the water.
Especially in Texas, it’s hard to take water for granted. But as rig counts rise, the propensity for altercations over water are likely to heat up. Teri said, “The scarcity of water drives regulatory activity.”
For instance Chesapeake Energy says a typical well requires between 65,000 and 600,000 gallons of water. The TRC’s new rule represents a fair compromise because it requires more detailed disclosers, while protecting trade secrets, making it one of the most thorough and clear rules to date.
The new rule will affect wells permitted on or after Feb. 1 and required information must be disclosed on the company’s website. Suppliers must disclose additives used in their frac’ing fluids, chemical ingredients and concentration levels to the operator. The operator then is responsible for providing all comprehensive information on the site, including the total volume of water. However, chemicals deemed trade secrets are not required to be disclosed, unless the Texas attorney general or a court determines otherwise.
Additional fodder for the leery should also include recycling the water used in frac’ing. An example might be a well fracturing operation in the Barnett Shale using fresh water from the municipality of Cleburne, in Johnson County. Cleburne sells water to operators at retail rates to stimulate Barnett Shale wells. Flow back of the water at the drilling site, now containing mineral salts from the underground formation, occurs over a period of several days to months. Typically, flow-back water is captured in lined pits and transported to off-site disposal. Most of that water then goes to re-injection disposal in a deepwater disposal well that is often located miles away from the original well site.
But with modern water recycling technologies, it is now possible for much of this brine to be reused in subsequent well fracs, and a great deal can also be recovered as fresh water for beneficial use. The potential for reuse not only bodes well for the environment, but could help the oil and gas industry save money in the long run. Several companies and technologies are now competing to get a share of the water management market in the Fort Worth Basin.
Although the frac’ing industry has always been economically viable an emphasis on full disclosure is imperative to build public confidence in this decades-old technique; one that those in the industry already trust implicitly.