GSA home

Log In | GSA Community | GSA Store | Join GSA | Donate | Contact Us

GSA home

| GSA Community | GSA Store | Donate | Contact Us

GSA Critical Issue: Hydraulic Fracturing

Table of Contents


Hydraulic Fracturing Defined

Hydraulic Fracturing’s History
and Role in Energy Development

Potential Environmental Issues
Associated with Hydraulic Fracturing

Water Quality

Water Use

Triggered or Induced Seismicity

Regulation Issues

Staying Informed



Print PDF
The hydraulic fracturing critical issue will be periodically updated.

Comment Form

Comments requested here:

  1. Notify if there is a broken link;
  2. Recommend annotated references on hydraulic fracturing, with a link to the refereed journal. Article annotation limited to 75 words.
  3. Suggestions on related aspects of hydraulic fracturing to address in future revisions.
This comment section is not a discussion forum. GSA members are encouraged to start a thread on GSA's Open Forum, if desired.


Frac Focus home webpage

Figure 16. Frac Focus home website,

Oil and gas exploration and production activity is regulated at the federal, state, and local level. Although the EPA Scientific Advisory Board is studying issues related to hydraulic fracturing, and has investigated complaints of possible groundwater contamination related to hydraulic fracturing, most regulation resides with state agencies, many of which have experience in oil and gas regulation. The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), a multi-state commission ratified by Congress, helps states establish and coordinate regulation of the oil and gas industry. The Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) also assist in this effort. In addition, acquisition of water for hydraulic fracturing is subject to state regulations and laws.

Disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing is currently exempt from federal regulations associated with the Safe Drinking Water Act, and composition restrictions and reporting requirements of injected fluid vary between states [66]. In response to public requests for disclosure of the composition of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, the IOGCC and the GWPC established a publicly accessible hydraulic fracturing chemical registry website called FracFocus 2.0 ( (Fig 16). At least 18 states require companies to disclose the identity of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, although all of these states protect proprietary trade secrets from disclosure.


Hydraulic fracturing of tight rocks has become a growing component of oil and gas energy production in the U.S., particularly in terms of natural gas production from shale. While there are potential impacts from hydraulic fracturing itself, most of the environmental concerns relate to long established processes used in nearly all oil and gas drilling—such as well construction or fluid disposal—and are not unique to the process of hydraulic fracturing itself. There are also serious concerns related to the rapid industrialization of unconventional oil and gas development, of which hydraulic fracturing is a critical component. There remains a significant need for accurate information dissemination, improved dialogue between consumers and producers, and ongoing research on hydraulic fracturing and its potential environmental impact. Meanwhile, peer-reviewed professional publications remain the most reliable source of scientific and technical information about hydraulic fracturing and unconventional oil and gas development. Geologists involved in aspects of the hydraulic fracturing technology, whether in exploration and development, regulation, natural resource management or environmental protection, are encouraged to share their knowledge with the general public and policy makers.

< BACK | top | NEXT >