Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SkyTruth Releases Fracking Chemical Database


Today, SkyTruth released a database on the chemicals used during the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking, at oil and gas wells across the United States. These data (which took a heckuva lot of work for us to compile) are being made freely available to the public for research and analysis. We're doing this in the hope that this information will facilitate credible research on this nationally significant issue, and will promote discussion about effective public disclosure. 
Voluntary industry disclosures of the chemicals used in fracking operations nationwide are now available in the SkyTruth Fracking Chemical Database. 


We extracted the data from more than 27,000 "chemical disclosure reports" voluntarily submitted by industry to FracFocus, for gas and oil wells fracked between January 2011 and August 2012. The SkyTruth Fracking Chemical Database is the first free public resource enabling research and analysis of the chemicals used in fracking operations nationwide.  

Working with our partners at FracTracker.org we are helping them to publish maps, analysis and visualizations using this data set on their FracMapper mapping utility.

A few examples:  
  • Using this dataset we calculated the volume of water used for fracking across the United States, and compared that to the amount flowing over Niagara Falls and the area covered by Central Park
  • We looked at the ongoing, unpermitted use of diesel fuels in fracking, apparently in violation of the Safe Drinking Water act. 
  • Most recently, we examined disclosure rates in West Virginia and concluded that state and industry data were so incomplete that the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking ranged from only 0% to 31.6%

Responding to public calls for greater transparency Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and five other states require disclosure via FracFocus. But with the limited tools provided by FracFocus, data aggregation and analysis is impossible. Despite these and other critical shortcomings, the White House has suggested FracFocus is a suitable platform for public disclosure.

More states are considering relying on FracFocus to address increasing public pressure for disclosureThe Bureau of Land Management is finalizing new rules for fracking that will apply to drilling on millions of acres of public land, and may be on the verge of designating FracFocus as the public disclosure platform. But we think the data must be much more accessible, shareable, and useable for the public to be adequately informed about the types and amounts of chemicals used in fracking operations. 

“The intelligible disclosure of industry information and data through this SkyTruth action will make the task of research on the effects of fracking much easier,” said Dr. Tony Ingraffea, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University. “This large and ever-expanding dataset is invaluable for cross-referencing with other datasets such as health and environmental quality."

Those interested in this resource are encouraged to contact SkyTruth for more information on the data and to discuss research potential.  

We would like to thank the Colcom Foundation, the WestWind Foundation and Patagonia for supporting this work.





3 comments:

  1. Thanks Monte!

    One important note: our objective was to capture the FracFocus dataset as is - warts and all - in hopes that other enterprising data geeks and analysts would be able to help clean it up and make sense of it, for the public benefit. Many have complained the data are far from meeting the needs of adequate public disclosure (this Bloomberg News article gives a good accounting of those concerns -- http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-14/fracking-hazards-obscured-in-failure-to-disclose-wells.html). By making the data available, these shortcomings can now be systematically analyzed and quantified by anyone willing to put in the time and effort. We think this is tremendously important, because states are beginning to designate FracFocus as the place for public disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking; and the federal government may be on the brink of doing the same. Unless and until these shortcomings are fixed, we think this is a mistake.

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  2. Wow the frac focus database is incredible. 47% of the 27,591 fracked wells in 2012 were oil related while 53% were gas. We are mapping the health and safety issues associated with these locations at http://www.drillingmaps.com

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