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Water contamination fears have plagued the shale gas scene, particularly in the Marcellus shale, for more than a year now. As if low gas prices weren't enough of a drag, these concerns have arguably hurt the share prices of companies like Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE: COG ) and Southwestern Energy (NYSE: SWN ) .
One of the biggest sources of anxiety is the lack of public disclosure surrounding the identity and quantity of chemicals that are added to so-called "frac fluid," which is mostly water and sand. I've been an advocate of better disclosure since at least last August. The operators and service companies need to do this to head off moratoria and onerous regulation.
Companies ranging from Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) to ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) have expressed support for better frac fluid disclosure. Range Resources (NYSE: RRC ) , the original Marcellus shale sleuth, has now gone far beyond any other company in this regard.
On Wednesday morning, Range announced that it will be making available a thorough accounting of frac fluid additives at each individual well site, to both the state regulator and the general public. An example is posted on the company's website.
There's been some reluctance among big service providers like Halliburton (NYSE: HAL ) to reveal their exact fluid formulations, but I think it's become plain enough to everyone that the business risk of drilling bans far outweigh those of decreased trade secret protection. Range couldn't have taken this step without the consent of its well completion contractors, after all.
I doff my jester's cap to this drilling outfit for taking the lead in this important transparency push.