Texas regulator drafts frac fluid disclosure rule

Texas’ oil and gas drilling regulators approved today draft rules requiring the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluid ingredients.

The Texas Railroad Commission approved the draft rules 3-0, with a 32-day public comment period set to begin once the rules are published in the Texas Register. The draft can be see here, or below.

Texas lawmakers passed a bill requiring disclosure in May, which was signed by Gov. Rick Perry in June.

The rules behind the new law technically don’t need to be in place for nearly two years, but Commissioner David Porter vowed this past Spring to get the process moving more quickly.

The rules require companies to list on a public website all the ingredients in the mix of fluids pumped under high pressure into shale formations to break them apart to release natural gas (and oil, in some cases).

Exceptions to disclosure include ingredients that are considered proprietary or trade secrets. The trade secrets designation can be appealed, but only by the property owner where the frac job took place, or an adjacent property owner.

Companies must also provide information on all the ingredients, including propriety ingredients, to health professionals or emergency workers, but those workers must keep that information confidential, according to the draft rules.

The cost of the new rules should be “relatively minor,” according to Railroad Commission staff, perhaps $100 per well drilled for extra data entry costs. Data from about half of the wells being drilled is likely already being shared voluntarily by companies on the FracFocus web site, the commission said.

In 2010, 15,466 new drilling permits were issued in Texas, according to the TXRRC, with 85 percent of them using hydraulic fracturing.

Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, lauded the Railroad Commission for the draft rules. 

“The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club appreciates the hard work of the Railroad Commission staff and its commissioners in issuing a proposal sooner rather than waiting until 2012 as required under the law,” Reed said in a statement.

“With natural gas companies fracking at lightning speed all over the state — in the Barnett Shale in North Central Texas, the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, Haynesville Shale in East Texas and the Permian Basin in West Texas, it is past time to require that operators tell the public what chemicals they are sending down their gas production wells. We urge the public to read the proposed rule, make comments and attend the public meeting in October. Mandatory disclosure is a good first step toward proper regulation of oil and gas exploration.”

The draft rules and an online comment form will be available on the Commission’s website beginning Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Wyoming, which has had a frac fluid disclosure law for nearly a year, has exempted 146 chemicals for trade secret reasons. Two claims of trade secret protection were rejected by Wyoming officials.

A public comment hearing on the rules will also be held on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. in Room, 1-111 of the  William B. Travis Building, 1701 North Congress, Austin.

Draft Frac Fluid Rules for Texas Aug 2011