Welcome to the first in a series of PatchWorks issues on hydraulic fracturing. Previous issues have described what hydraulic fracturing is and why it’s used. (See 60 Years of Fracturing and Multistage Fracturing Part 1 and Part 2.) Now we’re going to delve a little deeper, starting with hydraulic fracturing fluid.

Fracturing fluid is a mixture made of about 99 per cent water and sand. The remaining one per cent or so is comprised of additives, many of which are found in household products. See the pie graph from the BC Oil and Gas Commission.

The number and type of chemical additives used in a typical fracture treatment depends on the conditions, such as the depth or location, of the specific well being fractured, as well as the characteristics of the formation, such as the thickness and type of rock. 

The types of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing isn’t a secret. In fact, quite the opposite.

Canada’s oil and gas industry fully supports the public disclosure of fracturing fluid additions. For example, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has developed guiding principles for hydraulic fracturing that – among other things – guide fluids reporting practices for shale gas development in Canada.

In addition, a new website at www.fracfocus.ca was launched by the BC Oil and Gas Commission in 2012 as: “a collaboration between provinces, territories, regulators and industry to provide Canadians with objective information on hydraulic fracturing, what legislation and regulations are in place to protect the environment including groundwater, and transparency on the ingredients that make up hydraulic fracturing fluids.”

The FracFocus site gives British Columbians access to public data on the fracturing fluids used on wells completed in their area. Operator (producer) companies populate the database with information on the additives used, from information provided by the petroleum service company performing the hydraulic fracturing.

With its Find a Well section, www.fracfocus.ca is super easy to use. Just click on the province and select the operator or region. The fracturing record for each well is available in pdf, along with clear directions on how to read the record. There’s also a listing of chemicals used and why, as well as background on the fracturing process, groundwater protection and the regulations that apply in each jurisdiction.

Starting this year, Albertans will also have the opportunity to view public data on wells in their communities. The Energy Resources Conservation Board expects data from newly drilled and completed wells in Alberta to be available on the website by this summer.

Hydraulic fracturing companies are proud of their ability to use fluids that perform effectively and are environmentally benign. There’s certainly no reason to keep that a secret.

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