Trade secret claims used by the oil and gas industry to withhold disclosure of the chemicals it uses in hydraulic fracturing are widely viewed as hurting the industry. The demonstrated shortcoming of limited, voluntary chemical disclosure raises public alarm about the safety of hydraulic fracturing and damages the industry’s social license to operate. And the most widely used disclosure vehicle – FracFocus, has failed as a compliance tool. Last month, a a task force of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board recommended full chemical disclosure in FracFocus reports.
Now, in a break with its industry peers, Baker Hughes, a major provider of hydraulic fracturing services, plans to begin disclosing all the chemicals it uses in fracking fluid, without exceptions for trade secrets.
A company announcement said:
Baker Hughes believes it is possible to disclose 100% of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations – a balance that increases public trust while encouraging commercial innovation. Where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities, Baker Hughes is implementing a new format that achieves this goal, providing complete lists of the products and chemical ingredients used.
It’s unclear whether other companies will follow Baker Hughes’ lead. Or how the company’s customers will respond - “Where accepted by customers” may be the key phrase in Baker Hughes’ statement. Other industry players and trade groups have defended the current level of protection for trade secrets.Will oil and gas companies accept full disclosure? Will regulators and the public accept nothing less?