FracFocus: Getting Plaudits, But Some Are Never Satisfied
FracFocus.org has generated quite a bit of interest so far in 2012 because it is such an important demonstration of the natural gas industry providing transparency to the public. With data on over 11,000 wells and over 163,000 website visits feedback has been great with people pleased to see hydraulic fracturing solutions listed, and searchable, on a well by well basis. Yet, as is the case with most things in life, some people are just never satisfied.
FracFocus Numbers Speak for Themselves
Operators in the Marcellus Shale have moved forward the discussion on disclosure by being some of the first in the nation to populate FracFocus with information on fracturing fluid solutions. This, of course, will remain a key priority, and educational focus, as operators move forward in 2012.
Each month brings an increase in the number of companies participating and a subsequent increase in the number of wells for which hydraulic fracturing solution information is available to the public. Just a quick cursory review shows that natural gas companies are committed to making their data available to the public. For example, less than a year old, as of February 13, the site enjoys the following industry support:
- 160 companies participating
- 82 companies reporting
- 11,410 wells reported
As companies continue to populate the site with additional data website analytics show the public is embracing the resources as well. For example the site has seen over 163,323 visits from 114,303 unique visitors. If you aren’t one of the 114,303 unique visitors the site has seen, or aren’t quite sure where to start, here’s a quick tutorial by EID’s Bill DesRosiers to help get you started.
GWPC Goes Above and Beyond with FracFocus
The Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC) has done an exceptional job with the development and implementation of the site by designing a resource that provides this information in a readable and easy to understand format. An example can be seen in this link which provides general information on typical additives used in completion solutions, how much is generally used, why each is chosen, and also provides a general history on disclosure. The page also provides the following graphic which helps visualize typical additives and solution composition.
GWPC also provides a breakdown of what a visitor will see on each data sheet in the Frequent Questions Section.
The following is a list of elements contained in the hydraulic fracturing records viewable on this site and an explanation of what each element means. Feel free to use this completion log to follow along:
The header of each fracturing record contains the following information:
1. Fracture date: This is the date fracturing occurred
2. State: The name of the state where the well is located
3. County: The name of the county where the well is located
4. API Number: This number is assigned under a system developed by the American Petroleum Institute. API
numbers are formatted as nn-nnn-nnnnn-nn-nn with the first 2 numbers designating the state, the second 3 numbers
designating the county and the next 5 numbers designating the particular well. When present, the next 2 numbers are a directional sidetrack code to designate the number of horizontal or directional offshoots from a single vertical borehole and the final 2 numbers are an event sequence code used to designate multiple activities conducted at a single well such as recompletion, treatment etc… (A list of the state and county codes can be found at http://www.spwla.org/technical/api-codes) ‡
5. Operator Name: This is the name of the company
6. Well Name: This is the name of the well-often named after the property owner.
7. Longitude: This the east-west coordinate location of the well on the earth in degrees, minutes and seconds
8. Latitude: This is the north-south coordinate location of the well on the earth in degrees, minutes and
9. Latitude/ Longitude Projection: This is the particular projection method for the Latitude/ Longitude (e.g.
North American Datum (NAD) 27 or 83)
10. True Vertical Depth: This is the absolute depth of the well measured from the surface to the deepest point
11. Total Water Volume: This is the amount of water (in gallons) used. It may include recycled water and freshwater.
12. Production Type: This designates the well type (e.g. Oil, Gas)
In addition to the information above, each record contains information about additives used in the fracturing fluid. The following is a list of the information shown on the fracturing record:
1. Trade Name: This is the name of the product designated by the supplier
2. Supplier: This is the name of the service company that supplied the product (e.g. Schlumberger,
3. Purpose: This is the function served by the additive (Trade Name) in the fracturing process (e.g.
surfactant, biocide etc…)
4. Ingredients: This is the scientific name of the additive (e.g. Ethanol, Naphthalene etc…)
5. Chemical Abstract Service ‡ or CAS Number: This is a number assigned by a division of the American Chemical
Society for the purpose of identifying a specific substance. You can learn more about the toxicity characteristics by searching using the name or CAS number on the USEPA National Center for Computational Toxicology ‡ website. USEPA also maintains a Drinking Water Hotline that is available Monday-Friday from 8:30 AM-4:30 PM Eastern time at 1-800-426-4791.
6. Ingredient percentage in additive by % Mass: This describes the amount of the additive
(Trade Name) as a percent of the total mass. Note: Because the % Mass of the additive will be expressed as its maximum concentration, the total % Mass of ingredient percentage may exceed 100%.
7. Ingredient concentration in HF (Hydraulic fracturing) fluid % by mass: This describes the amount of ingredient as a percent of the total mass of the HF fluid including carrier fluid and additives. Note: The total may not equal 100% due to the absence of non MSDS ingredients which may or may not be listed depending upon state reporting requirements.
You Can’t Please Everyone But FracFocus Does A Darned Good Job
Despite the information shown above, which doesn’t even scratch the surface of information the GWPC has placed on FracFocus.org, we’re still hearing complaints about the website with some calling it “useless”, “obstructive”, and “incomprehensible”. Whoa. Pretty harsh accusations of a website that shows the public exactly what additives are being used in well applications in communities throughout the play. So why are the antis so perturbed about the site then?
A. Perhaps they aren’t reading the site because they already know everything there is to know about natural gas development and especially hydraulic fracturing. After all they did watch Gasland.
B. They fall into a very large portion of the American populace, myself included, that is more familiar with English measurements than the metric system and don’t understand that volume is not the appropriate way to share the data.
C. They can’t be satisfied, even when they get exactly what they want.
It could be all of the above, or maybe some combination of each, but people are still confused and a site this important should be understood by all. So, with that, we are going to explain the reasoning behind the decision to use the metric system and what exactly you are seeing when you read the data.
Why Metric with FracFocus?
If the majority of Americans think in volume and pounds instead of kilograms why would the GWPC choose the latter to express the data? It is reported by mass because that is the most accurate way to report the information. If a company is going to take the time to share the data with the public they want it to be the most accurate it can be. They aren’t going to make assumptions, guess, or convert the figures and perhaps make an error.
And why do they show data in mass? Because federal and state regulatory agencies require the data to be shown in mass on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) required for the natural gas industry, your local baker, or anyone who keeps a bottle of Windex under the counter at their place of business. There is consistency in reporting chemicals at a job site and the natural gas industry is no exception to this rule.
Here’s an analogy to which many of our readers can relate to help understand the rationale. If you were looking at campaign contributions, would you rather they be reported in volume (raw number) or by dollar amount of the contributions (mass) and by whom (chemical constituent)?
Another issue with reporting using volume is that the report would constantly change measurement format as some parts of the solution are liquids, while others are solids. Mass allows for data to be shown, regardless of its molecular state, in one measurement format that is consistent thus helping to normalize it.
So what are you seeing? Let’s look at hydrochloric acid (HCl), which can be used in hydraulic fracturing solution to help dissolve biotic materials and minerals that could otherwise shut down operations. Whether a company uses 1,000 gallons of 1% HCl solution or 100 gallons of 10% HCl, they are still using the same amount of HCl, and that mass is what’s in the report. 10 kg of HCl diluted in 1,000 gallons of water, is still 10 kg of HCl. The volume is irrelevant in this case because the mass is the actual amount of the product used, thus FracFocus is reporting the most useful data.
We hope that these examples assist in shedding a little light on why mass is a more accurate measurement tool in this case than volume, but if you still have questions, please send them with the form at this link . You can also contact the operator of the well which you are reviewing to ask more specific questions.