When it comes to fracking, the secret sauce is always the chemicals companies use to help break up shale and release oil and gas. Secret is the key word there.
Now Baker Hughes said it is ready to reveal all the chemicals it uses in hydraulic fracturing. That is something other big frackers limited by asserting the recipes they use to get at trapped oil and gas are trade secrets.
The Houston-based oil field services firm said in a release “it is possible to disclose 100 percent of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations — a balance that increases public trust while encouraging commercial innovation.”
Baker Hughes included a disclaimer: It would reveal its chemical data “where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities.” The company said it will take several months for it to negotiate with its suppliers before it can release its data.
The new disclosures, the company said, would eliminate any trade secret claims about its reports to FracFocus, an industry-backed database that regulators in Texas and other states use as a clearinghouse for fracturing-fluid data. It contains data on more than 68,000 U.S. oil and gas well sites.
The trade secret argument came about last year when researchers from Harvard’s environmental law program said FracFocus has “serious flaws” because it allows oil producers to withhold information on the fracturing fluids they use, by asserting trade secret exemptions.
Baker Hughes said its new data format will calm concerns, as it will include in its newly formatted reports a complete analysis of its fluid mixtures, down to tiny trace elements of ammonium hydroxide.
The release of Baker Hughes’ data would come as activist investors and environmental groups press oil companies to disclose the chemicals they use in the modern technique of blasting a mix of water, chemicals and proppants sometimes two miles under the earth’s surface to crack open shale oil and gas reservoirs.
Baker Hughes said 60 percent of U.S. natural gas would be trapped in shale and other reservoirs if not for hydraulic fracturing, a technique that has been around for some six decades but only recently targeted shale reserves since the mid-2000s when engineers combined the process with horizontal drilling.