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Department of Energy Panel Seeks Information on Composition of Drilling Mud

August 19, 2011

Allentown, PA A US Department of Energy panel is reportedly seeking information from energy companies related to the composition of drilling mud in a technique that enables them to access large deposits of natural gas.

According to the Press & Sun-Bulletin, the new technique has allowed for the creation of tens of thousands of new wells, but some critics have expressed concerns over the fact that water supplies could be poisoned as a result of the chemicals utilized.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu reportedly enlisted the help of the panel at the request of President Barack Obama, but the members of the panel have said that there is not much risk of the chemicals that are injected underground reaching drinking water areas.

Still, the panel asserted that with the drilling process being thrust into the spotlight recently, companies should be responsible for disclosing the specific chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing process, according to the news source.

"In our judgment, they should disclose the entire suite of chemicals," except in "very rare" cases when chemicals are believed to be proprietary, John Deutch, chairman of the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the advisory board, told The Associated Press, according to the news source.

Gas drilling companies have reportedly been focused on the Marcellus Shale that runs through New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio in recent years, according to the Press & Sun-Bulletin. While the discovery of the new shale has enabled the country to meet demand for natural gas, environmentalists have expressed concerns about air pollution, contamination of drinking water and surface chemical spills, the news source said.

"These adverse environmental impacts need to be prevented, reduced and, where possible, eliminated as soon as possible," the panel explained. "Absent effective control, public opposition will grow, thus putting continued production at risk."

According to the AP, such concerns likely increased recently when drilling mud spilled into a Pennsylvania stream for the third time, as pipeline company Laser Northeast Gathering Co. continues to construct a 33-mile line for the transportation of natural gas.

The latest spill reportedly occurred on the day that construction on the pipeline resumed after previous spills had led to a five-day work stoppage, the news source said. Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Daniel Spadoni said that the majority of the fewer than 100 gallons of non-toxic drilling mud was ultimately recovered, the news provider reported.