Even as the Obama administration is encouraging the use of natural gas to reduce dependence on foreign oil, the government is contemplating new laws compelling energy companies to reveal information about the chemicals used in the extraction process.
The government is considering new disclosure requirements for chemicals used in a process called 'hydraulic fracturing,' Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Tuesday.
The process, also known as 'fracking,' is used to create fractures in rocks that helps releasing natural gas. Millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals are pumped underground to force open channels so the gas will flow.
The regulations are mostly aimed at drilling for natural gas on public lands, to ensure that natural gas is developed in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner.
Onshore gas wells on Interior-managed lands accounts for 11 percent of the nation's natural gas supply, according to AFP.
Natural gas production is gaining increasing popularity worldwide as the demand for oil increases. Shale gas is considered to be the new energy source as oil reserves continue to be depleted across the world. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. shale production in 2008 was 2022 billion cubic feet, while gross natural gas production was 25,810 BCF.
Energy companies are targeting the Marcellus shale beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio.
However, there are several concerns that the fracking process could contaminate drinking water and create other hazards. Even though the energy companies argue that the process is completely safe and takes place much below the sources of drinking water, a review is underway to determine the safety levels and new regulations for the process.
The New York Assembly approved a temporary ban on fracking early Tuesday, AFP reported. Gov. David Patterson is expected to sign the ban, which extends until May 15, the agency said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has subpoenaed Halliburton Co regarding chemicals used in the process. AFP reported that eight other drilling companies have provided that information to the EPA or promised to do so.
There is much reluctance among the companies to reveal the information, as they claim it is proprietary information. However, there is much concern regarding anything related to the drilling process after the backlash from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year.