Industry pushes back on shale gas recommendations

The American Petroleum Institute is protesting a new government report urging tougher standards for natural gas drilling that the trade group says overlooks existing regulations and industry improvements.

API is filing 10 pages of comments (below) that take issue with several of the recommendations from the group, which was tapped by Energy Secretary Steven Chu to study ways to boost the safety and environmental performance of natural gas production nationwide.

In its interim report issued last week, the panel urged the industry and regulators to cut emissions at drilling sites and better track the way water is used at those operations. The group also urged the creation of a national database on water use in hydraulic fracturing, a technique used for extracting natural gas from dense shale rock formations.

Erik Milito, API’s upstream director, said that overlooks plenty of work that’s already been done.

“The report failed to recognize the strong regulations and industry protections that are already in place,” Milito said on a conference call with reporters today. Milito said he wished the group had acknowledged existing regulatory programs “and various steps taken by industry . . . which is committed to continuously improving.”

Milito and other industry leaders also have complained that because the panel does not contain drilling experts, it isn’t well poised to study what’s needed. (Environmental advocacy groups, meanwhile, say the group is too heavily tilted toward industry, since most of the panel’s members have ties to natural gas).

The panel chairman, John Deutch, said he expected a bit of a backlash against some of the report, which he described as a “compromise.”

In particular, API is taking issue with the group’s argument that diesel fuel should not be used in natural gas operations. Diesel has been an ingredient in the mixtures of sand, water and chemicals blasted deep underground to help break up shale rock and unlock natural gas. By contrast, API contends, “diesel fuel is currently authorized for use as a permitted fracturing additive under federal law,” and any changes would require new action by the Energy Department.

When it comes to better water monitoring, API insists that water is already a “highly regulated commodity” subject to federal, state and local requirements.
“We see little additional value from requiring a manifest for the transportation of fresh water hauls,” API argues, especially since that information already has to be reported to most local water management agencies.

API Comments on DOE SEAB Recommendations Final