EPA Fracking Panel
Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer by a pressurized fluid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples—and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) today announced the formation of its Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory panel. This panel of independent experts will peer review EPA’s 2014 draft report of results for its national study on any potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. The SAB panel will provide scientific feedback on EPA’s research in an open and transparent manner on this controversial subject. The development of the draft report, which is directed by Congress, is in line with the Administration’s focus on continuing to expand safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production.
Proponents of hydraulic fracturing point to the economic benefits from vast amounts of formerly inaccessible hydrocarbons the process can extract. Opponents point to potential environmental impacts, including contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, surface contamination from spills and flowback and the health effects of these. For these reasons hydraulic fracturing has come under scrutiny internationally, with some countries suspending or banning it
The SAB has identified an independent panel of 31 experts that meet the SAB’s criteria of having the necessary expertise and breadth of experience to adequately review the EPA hydraulic fracturing study on the potential impacts on drinking water resources, and meet long-standing rules regarding financial conflicts of interest.
EPA will ask the SAB panel, as a part of its public process, to specifically seek input from applied science practitioners in the field. Assuring the most up-to-date information on emerging science and technology of this rapidly changing industry is a critical component of the entire process.
In March 2010, EPA announced its intention to conduct the study in response to a request from Congress. To ensure an approach of openness and scientific rigor, the agency has engaged in a wide variety of activities, including public meetings with stakeholders and public webinars, technical roundtables and technical workshops. In addition, the agency’s Science Advisory Board reviewed the draft study plan and now has established a panel that will peer review the 2014 draft report of results, as well as provide scientific feedback as requested.
"Our final report on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources must be based on sound science and take into account the latest practices being used by the industry," said Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. "We have worked to ensure that the study process be open and transparent throughout, and the SAB panel is another example of our approach of openness and scientific rigor."
The SAB panel is comprised of five current employees of companies and consulting firms; two government employees; and 21 academics/university professors (including some previously employed in industry). It has at least three experts in each of the following nine areas of expertise that were sought for the panel: Petroleum/Natural Gas Engineering; Petroleum/Natural Gas Well Drilling; Hydrology/Hydrogeology; Geology /Geophysics; Groundwater Chemistry/Geochemistry; Toxicology/Biology; Statistics; Civil Engineering; and Waste Water and Drinking Water Treatment.
On May 7 and 8, 2013, the SAB panel will convene a meeting to provide individual feedback from panel members regarding EPA’s 2012 progress report on the study. The draft report of results will synthesize the findings from the study’s ongoing projects together with scientific literature to answer the study’s main research questions regarding hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources.
For further information see Fracking Panel.
Hydrofracturing image via Wikipedia.