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Hydraulic fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the process of extracting oil or natural gas from shale reservoirs. Hydraulic fracturing is a time-tested, proven technology that has been safely used in more than a million wells worldwide since the 1940s.

Extracting natural gas from certain formations, including shale, tight sandstones and coal beds, requires drawing the resource through openings about one half the width of a human hair. Hydraulic fracturing uses water pressure to create these hairline fractures in rocks deep underground so natural gas can flow.

The process involves drilling a mile or more below the surface, turning horizontal and continuing for several thousand more feet. Once the well is drilled, cased and cemented, small perforations are made in the horizontal portion of the well pipe, and a mix of water, sand and additives is pumped at high pressure to create fractures in the rock. The natural gas or oil then flows up the pipe to the surface.

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Addressing stakeholder concerns

All industrial processes have risks, and drilling for unconventional oil and gas is no different. We understand stakeholders are concerned about these risks, including those related to hydraulic fracturing fluids and wastewater, well casing and groundwater, vehicle traffic, air emissions, and other related effects. These are important concerns, and we know we must respond to them in every community in which we operate and reach out to communities to ensure our responses are effective.

ExxonMobil analyzes every significant operation the Corporation undertakes through our Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS). Applying OIMS requires us to identify potential safety, environmental, and social impacts and to implement procedures and processes to mitigate risks. XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, is fully implementing OIMS, and is carrying out a risk-based, focused and deliberate execution strategy.

ExxonMobil’s shale gas development and production activities are guided by proven policies, industry guidelines and practices, as well as more than 40 years of experience in hydraulic fracturing.

We participated in the American Petroleum Institute working group that developed three recommended practice documents encompassing the life cycle of unconventional resource development. We work with state governments and multi-state entities to address concerns, establish effective regulatory frameworks and implement industry consensus on sound management practices.

A vital component of building community trust is transparency of operations. We support the disclosure of the ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, including on a site-specific basis. In the United States, disclosure appears on the publicly accessible website, an effort between the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Launched in April 2011, ExxonMobil and others in the industry have voluntarily submitted actual data from more than 10,000 wells. In Canada, the public can access for industry disclosures. We will continue to take a leadership role in working collaboratively with communities, regulators, and industry associations to manage operational risk and address questions and concerns. ExxonMobil recognizes the importance of responsible operations in maintaining stakeholder support for this significant resource.