CHEYENNE, Wyo. — State oil and gas regulators are about to vote on new rules that would require energy companies to disclose the chemicals used in a process that increases the productivity of oil and gas wells.
Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open up fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas. Concern that the chemicals could pollute aquifers has accompanied an increase in "fracking" nationwide.
Companies in Wyoming currently aren't required to tell regulators the ingredients in their fracking chemical formulas. The industry generally has voiced skepticism about disclosure, saying that handing over secret formulas could hurt their competitiveness.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a commission member, called for striking a balance between disclosure and protecting companies' most sensitive proprietary information.
The proposed rules that the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will vote on Tuesday would require companies to list what goes into their fracking chemicals and in what proportion, said Tom Doll, the state's oil and gas supervisor.
The rules emphasize that trade secrets are protected from disclosure under Wyoming's open records laws, but Doll said that's not likely to be an issue.
"Currently I'm not aware of any chemicals being used in well stimulation as being classified as trade secrets," he said Monday.
Both disclosure advocates and industry representatives said they support the new rules.
The Petroleum Association of Wyoming is taking a wait-and-see attitude about how the disclosure rules will be implemented but overall has been pleased with the rule-making process, said Rick Robitaille, a vice president with the industry group.
"We started out with something that was pretty complex and we ended up with a regulation we're pretty sure we can live with," Robitaille said.
The Powder River Basin Resource Council, which called for disclosure, is OK with the proposed rules as well.
"I have to say 'kudos' to the governor, for sure," said Deb Thomas, an organizer with the landowner group.
Freudenthal declined through his spokeswoman to comment on the draft rules or say how he would vote at Tuesday's meeting in Casper.
Shell Oil Co., the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, supports the rules, said Darci Sinclair, a company spokeswoman in Denver.
"The public should have confidence that if there is an issue, the state has the necessary information to investigate," Sinclair said.
The proposed rules cover more than fracking. They also would require companies to identify all state-licensed water wells within a quarter-mile of an oil or gas well, for example, and to note all usable groundwater sources beneath the wellhead.