Policy Documents

Colorado Draft Statement of Basis and Purpose: Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Disclosure

A major reason for adopting the new rules and amendments was to address concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing. Members of the public have expressed interest in learning the identity of chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids. Many oil and gas operators are currently providing such information through the FracFocus.org website, and several other states have adopted or are adopting similar regulations.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracing, is the process of creating small cracks, or fractures, in underground geological formations providing pathways to allow oil and natural gas to flow into the wellbore and thereby increase production. Prior to initiating hydraulic fracturing, engineers and geoscientists study and model the physical characteristics of the hydrocarbon bearing rock formation, including its permeability, porosity and thickness. Using this information, they design the process to keep the resulting fractures within the target formation. In Colorado, the target formation is often more than 7,000 feet below the ground surface and more than 5,000 feet below drinking water aquifers.

To fracture the formation, fracturing fluids are injected down the well bore and into the formation. These fluids typically consist of water, sand, and chemical additives. The pressure created by injecting the fluid opens the fractures. Sand is carried into the fractures by the fluid and keeps the fractures open to increase the flow of oil or natural gas to the well bore. The chemicals serve a variety of purposes, including increasing viscosity, reducing friction, controlling bacteria, and decreasing corrosion. Following the treatment, much of the fracturing fluid flows back up the well bore and is collected at the surface in tanks or lined pits.
Fracture treatment of oil and gas wells in Colorado began in the 1970s and has evolved since then. Most of the hydrocarbon bearing formations in Colorado would not produce economic quantities of hydrocarbons without hydraulic fracturing.

The Commission Staff believes the new rules and amendments will significantly increase the transparency of hydraulic fracturing operations. The proposed rules require service companies and vendors to disclose all known chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids to operators and require operators to disclose such chemicals to the public via the website FracFocus.org or, with respect to an operator’s trade secrets, directly to the Commission or health professionals. FracFocus.org is a hydraulic fracturing chemical registry website created by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

The new rules and amendments reflect staff discussions with those intergovernmental organizations, as well as other states, industry associations, individual operators, and conservation groups. Although states have taken different approaches to disclosure, and the industry and conservation groups disagree on several issues, the Commission believes the proposed new rules and amendments strike a responsible balance.