Major Drilling Services Company Will Now Disclose All Fracking Chemicals

CREDIT: AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

A jar holding waste water from hydraulic fracturing is held up to the light at a recycling site in Midland, Texas, Sept. 24, 2013.

Drilling services company Baker Hughes will from now on disclose all the chemicals they use in fracking, under a new policy announced Tuesday.

Baker Hughes, which is one of the world’s largest companies providing drilling and other services to oil companies, pledged Tuesday that it would disclose 100 percent of the chemical makeup in the fluid it uses for fracking, “without the use of any trade secret designations.” The company said in a statement that it hopes its decision to disclose its chemical mix will help instill more public trust in the fracking process.

“Introducing greater transparency about the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process and protecting the ability to innovate are not conflicting goals,” Derek Mathieson, Baker Hughes chief strategy officer, said in a statement. “The policy we are implementing today is consistent with our belief that we are partners in solving industry challenges, and that we have a responsibility to provide the public with the information they want and deserve. It simultaneously enables us to protect proprietary information that is critical to our growth.”

Baker Hughes had previously announced plans to disclose fracking chemicals in April. The company will now list all the chemicals they use for each fracking job on, a site that collects voluntary submissions of chemicals used by fracking companies.

In most states, oil and gas companies aren’t required to disclose the chemical makeup of their fracking fluid, which means the exact cocktail used by most companies is kept secret. FracFocus has compiled a list of chemicals used by fracking companies, but a report from the Department of Energy in March found that 84 percent of the wells that had provided chemical information to FracFocus withheld information for at least one chemical, invoking trade secret protection.

Last year, California passed a law that requires oil and gas companies to list the chemicals they use in fracking operations, but the state remains the only one to have such a strict law on fracking chemical disclosure. In January, North Carolina passed a rule that gives fracking companies the right to keep their chemical mixes secret. Wyoming requires fracking companies to disclose some of the chemicals they use, but the state allows exemptions for trade secrets. Ohio has a similar rule.

Critics argue that disclosing chemicals used in fracking could help protect residents that live near fracking operations, by informing them of what toxic substances to test for in their water. There haven’t been many studies on how exposure to the water mixture that’s used in fracking operations affects humans, but one study found that exposure to fracking wastewater caused stillbirths and death in cattle. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently looking into rules that would require oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals they use, but the rules aren’t likely to be binding and will likely include exemptions for trade secrets.

Baker Hughes’ announcement came the same week that ExxonMobil released a report that documents the risks of fracking for its shareholders. Some say the report doesn’t go far enough, however — Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, told the AP she wished Exxon’s report had gone further.

“Exxon continues to discuss generalized practices…but provides no concrete data on whether it is actually reducing risks and impacts at each of the plays in which it is conducting fracking,” she said.