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Water: Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic Fracturing and the Safe Drinking Water Act

Natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future and the process known as hydraulic fracturing (HF) is one way of accessing that vital resource. HF is used by gas producers to stimulate wells and recover natural gas from sources such as coalbeds and shale gas formations. HF is also used for other applications including oil recovery. Over the past few years, several key technical, economic, and energy policy developments have spurred increased use of HF for gas extraction over a wider diversity of geographic regions and geologic formations. It is projected that shale gas will comprise over 20% of the total US gas supply by 2020 (PDF) (230 pp, 2MB, About PDF). Along with the expansion of HF, there has been increasing concerns about its potential impacts on drinking water resources, public health, and environmental impacts in the vicinity of these facilities.

Underground Injection Control Guidance for Permitting Oil and Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing Activities Using Diesel Fuels

EPA is developing Underground Injection Control (UIC) permitting guidance for hydraulic fracturing activities that use diesel fuels in fracturing fluids. Learn more about approaches EPA is considering and opportunities to comment.

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EPA's Final Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan

In its Fiscal Year 2010 budget report, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriation Conference Committee identified the need for a focused study of hydraulic fracturing. EPA scientists, under this administration and at the direction of Congress, are undertaking a study of hydraulic fracturing to better understand any potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water and groundwater.  EPA consulted with experts in the field through peer review, and technical workshops and engaged stakeholders in a dialogue about the study through facilitated public meetings.

The overall purpose of the study is to understand the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. The scope of the research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced water and its ultimate treatment and disposal.

new Status of Hydraulic Fracturing Study Research (11/1/11):


Initial research results are expected by the end of 2012. A final report will be released in 2014. 
EPA is working to complete the study in a timely manner so that the results are available to the public.    We have therefore initiated some activities that provide a foundation for the full study. Importantly, all of these activities were explicitly described in the draft study plan and supported by the SAB. EPA has been fully transparent about the goals of the initial work and the approaches being taken. As laid out in both the draft study plan and the final study plan, we have conducted an initial literature review, requested and received information from industry on chemicals and practices used in hydraulic fracturing, discussed initial plans for case studies with landowners and state, local and industry representatives, and conducted baseline sampling for retrospective case studies using scientifically sound approaches that have been shared with collaborators. This work will enable us to provide more results in the 2012 report.

For additional information:

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Hydraulic Fracturing Study Technical Workshops

EPA invited subject-matter experts to the technical workshops to present and provide technical knowledge during workshop discussions. EPA selected between 40-50 experts for attendance at each workshop. Four technical workshops were held in February and March 2011 to explore the following focus areas:

  1. Chemical & Analytical Methods (February 24-25),
  2. Well Construction & Operations (March 10-11),
  3. Fate & Transport (March 28-29) and
  4. Water Resource Management (March 29-30).

Hydraulic Fracturing Information Requests

EPA Asks 9 Companies to Voluntarily Provide Well File Information for Study on Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources

On August 11, 2011 EPA sent letters to nine oil and gas companies requesting their voluntary participation in EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing  Study.  EPA is requesting data on well construction, design, and well  operation practices for 350 oil and gas wells that were hydraulically  fractured from 2009-2010. EPA made this request as part of its national  study to examine the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on  drinking water resources. These wells were selected using a stratified  random method and reflect the diversity in both geography and size of  the oil and gas operator. This account of well performance – together  with a literature review, assessment of data and information from states  and communities, case studies, laboratory work, and computer modeling – will allow EPA to do a more thorough assessment of the potential  impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.

As of August 24, 2011, all nine oil and gas companies said that they plan to assist EPA. By sharing information about specific well construction design and operations, these companies will help EPA and the public  better understand technologies and practices associated with hydraulic  fracturing.


2010 Hydraulic Fracturing Information Request

On September 9, 2010, EPA issued voluntary information requests to nine leading national and regional hydraulic fracturing service providers. The data requested is integral to the Hydraulic Fracturing Study now underway by EPA, which seeks to understand any potential relationships between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. EPA is seeking information on the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process, data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment, standard operating procedures at hydraulic fracturing sites and the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted.

On November 9, 2010, EPA announced that eight out of the nine hydraulic fracturing companies that received voluntary information requests in September agreed to submit timely and complete information to help the Agency conduct its study on hydraulic fracturing. However, the ninth company, Halliburton, has failed to provide EPA the information necessary to move forward with this important study. As a result, and as part of EPA's effort to move forward as quickly as possible, today EPA issued a subpoena to the company requiring submission of the requested information that has yet to be provided.

On December 3, 2010, EPA received written confirmation from Halliburton that it will comply with the agency’s mandatory request for information on the company's hydraulic fracturing operations. Halliburton has agreed to provide the information on a rolling basis through January 31, 2011. EPA is pleased to have reached an agreement to access this crucial information that will help us carry out our congressionally mandated study on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. EPA's subpoena remains in place and is subject to enforcement if the terms of the recent agreement are not met.

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