US government issues rules on fracking

The US government has released rules on fracking , which mean that, from 2015, oil and gas companies will be required to capture methane and other pollutant gases that are byproducts of the process.

The FT reports that this will involve pumping a mixture of water and chemicals at high pressure to crack the surface of rock formations.

The guidelines, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, represent the first federal clean air standards for fracking, the technology that has underpinned the breakneck growth of the shale oil and gas sector and holds out the hope of eventual energy independence for the US.

But they grant energy companies more than two years to meet the new standards.

“[These standards are] an important step toward tapping future energy supplies without exposing American families and children to dangerous health threats in the air they breathe,” said Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator.

Oil and gas companies will be required to use “green completion” technologies when fracking new wells, which the EPA said should lead to the capture of up to 95 per cent of the gas emissions vented into the atmosphere at wells where they are not yet in use.

The gas could then be made available for sale or use in other industrial processes. The EPA estimates that half of all fracked oil and gas wells already comply with the new rules.

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