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OIPA answers hydraulic fracturing questions

February 23, 2010
OIPA President Mike Terry answered questions about hydraulic fracturing from the state's largest newspaper.

From The Oklahoman:

Q: The Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives sent out subpoenas last week to companies that use hydraulic fracturing in search of oil and natural gas, seeking information about chemicals used in that process. Are there any secrets to be found there?
A: The major components of hydraulic fracturing fluid are well-known, with water and sand accounting for up to 99 percent of the solution. The remaining additives are the same compounds found in soaps, detergents, cosmetics, medications and chemicals commonly found in households. Like Kentucky Fried Chickenís 11 herbs and spices, oilfield service companies, including those founded right here in Oklahoma, have invested time and money in creating formulas that improve the quality of the fracturing fluid. How much and which one of those additives is used varies by company, and they are hesitant to divulge "secret recipes.Ē

Q: What are industry groups like the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA) doing to reassure lawmakers that hydraulic fracturing is safe?
A: The OIPA has focused its efforts on educating federal lawmakers on the fracturing process, its history and state regulations covering its practice. Hydraulic fracturing has been used commercially since 1949, and there have been no known cases of drinking water contamination. In Oklahoma, the practice is already regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state agency that oversees the oil and natural gas industry. Similar agencies oversee hydraulic fracturing in other energy-producing states, and these state entities can respond more quickly than any federal agency to issues that require immediate regulatory attention.

Q: What could happen if the House panel concludes there should be increased scrutiny of companies that use hydraulic fracturing?
A: Increased regulations will lead to a decrease in competition. Some companies will simply stop providing hydraulic fracturing services and focus their efforts on other services they provide. With fewer companies providing hydraulic fracturing, the cost to drill an oil or natural gas well will increase. That increase in production cost would decrease the number of wells drilled in Oklahoma and the nation, resulting in a decline in oil and natural gas production. A decrease in supply will eventually push energy prices ... higher.

Q: What is the best-case scenario for the investigation?
A: The best scenario is the same scenario the EPA found in 2004, when the federal agency found no evidence fracking threatens drinking water. Just one week ago, Steve Heare, director of EPAís Drinking Water Protection Division, said he hadnít seen any documented cases that hydraulic fracturing contaminated water supplies. Hydraulic fracturing is a safe, well-regulated practice that is the key to increased natural gas production in America and a healthy energy economy in Oklahoma.
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