Extracting natural gas from certain formations, including shale, tight sandstones, and coal beds, requires drawing the resource through openings about one half the width of a human hair. Hydraulic fracturing uses water pressure to create hairline fractures in rocks deep underground so natural gas can flow. We believe it is in everyone’s interest to respond effectively to public concerns about production processes in order to maximise the benefits of this energy source. This requires industry both to properly manage associated risks, and to explain to the public and policymakers how we are doing so.
Addressing stakeholder concerns
All industrial processes have risks, and drilling for unconventional oil and gas is no different. We understand stakeholders are concerned about these risks, including those related to hydraulic fracturing fluids and wastewater, well casing and groundwater, vehicle traffic, air emissions, and other related effects. These are important concerns, and we know we must respond to them in every community in which we operate and reach out to communities to ensure our responses are effective.
ExxonMobil analyses every significant operation the Corporation undertakes through our Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS). Applying OIMS requires us to identify potential safety, environmental, and social impacts and to implement procedures and processes to mitigate risks. XTO Energy Inc. (XTO), a recently acquired subsidiary of ExxonMobil, will fully implement OIMS, and is carrying out a risk-based, focused, and deliberate execution strategy.
ExxonMobil’s shale gas development and production activities are guided by proven policies, industry guidelines and practices, as well as more than 40 years of experience in hydraulic fracturing.
We chair the American Petroleum Institute working group that has developed four recommended practice documents encompassing the life cycle of unconventional resource development. We work with state governments and multi-state entities to address concerns, establish effective regulatory frameworks, and implement industry consensus on sound management practices.
A vital component of building community trust is transparency of operations. We support the disclosure of the ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, including on a site-specific basis. In the United States, disclosure appears on the publicly accessible FracFocus.org website, an effort between the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Launched in April 2011, ExxonMobil and others in industry have voluntarily submitted actual data from more than 10,000 wells. In Canada, the public can access FracFocus.ca for industry disclosures in British Columbia, with Alberta and Saskatchewan planned for late 2012. We are pursuing similar disclosure approaches in Europe and other areas where we are exploring internationally. We will continue to take a leadership role in working collaboratively with communities, regulators, and industry associations to manage operational risk and address questions and concerns. ExxonMobil recognises the importance of responsible operations in maintaining stakeholder support for this significant resource.