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Transparency: Fracking chemicals and FracFocus

Public sources of information about the hydraulic fracturing industry are patchy. Before 2011, one glaring deficit was the lack of detailed information about the chemicals used in the fracking process.

In 2011, FracFocus.org, an industry-sponsored website, went online with disclosures of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.  Since that year, the site has published files that list the chemicals used in individual fracking events. Not long after, many states began requiring fracking companies to use FracFocus reporting for fracking operations in those states. Because of that, FracFocus maintains probably the largest collection of data about the use of fracking chemicals available to the public.

Unfortunately, the data as provided by FracFocus is notoriously difficult to use and rife with errors, omissions and ambiguities. Even though FracFocus began supplying the entire collection in a bulk download (about 2015), the raw data are poorly organized and in several different formats.

Open-source project to make FracFocus data more accessible

This website describe projects that transform the FracFocus data into an easier-to-use resource available to anyone. We describe the scope of the data, the methods used to overcome obstacles within FracFocus, where to find the cleaned data and some possible uses. Our aim is to help researchers, interested community members and activists find what they need about fracking chemicals.

FracFocus contains a wealth of information. Hopefully you will be inspired to look more deeply.

About the author

Gary Allison has been interested in large data sets for years.  He received his PhD in Zoology (emphasis in Marine Ecology) from Oregon State University in 1997.  After a long family-focused hiatus, he is reconnecting with his technical background, primarily focusing on using python/pandas to clean and analyze marginally public data sets to make them more accessible.

About the art

Much of the art used throughout this site is courtesy of Becky Mansfield, geographer, quilter and monoprint artist.

The profile portrait of Gary Allison is by Claire Mansfield, accomplished teen knitter, quilter and artist.

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