Regulators haven’t suggested tightening a loophole that allows oil and gas companies to avoid disclosing the chemicals they use when drilling.
But Leslie Savage, chief geologist at the Texas Railroad Commission, told members of the Energy Resources and Environmental Regulation committees during a hearing Tuesday that information on FracFocus.org soon should be easier to search.
Texas began requiring operators to disclose the composition of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing on the web site on Feb. 1, 2012, but the law allows them to withhold the identity and amount of the chemicals used as a trade secret.
In an analysis reported by the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle earlier this month, of 12,410 cases reported on FracFocus.org between April 2011 and early December 2012, companies used terms such as “proprietary, “ “secret” or “confidential” 10,120 times, according to data collected by the Houston-based Pivot Upstream Group.
Savage reported those numbers as she spoke to members of the two House committees. But she also noted that scraping data from a website causes “a lot of inherent problems.”
She also said the Railroad Commission doesn’t have the expertise or authority to determine whether companies are justified in withholding the information.
Disclosing the chemicals used in fracking fluids was intended to help prove that the technology is safe, and Savage said it’s necessary for the process to be open. “We understand the public’s need to know,” she said.
“We also understand the company’s need to protect something they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing. We’re trying to define the balance.”
The original intent of FracFocus.org was to answer concerns from people living near drilling sites, Savage said.
But she also acknowledged concerns that the site isn’t searchable and said a new version should address that issue, although the searchable component won’t be retroactive.