A new forum in the United States aims to reduce the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

This will help producers address public concern over issues such as the hazards posed by the chemical additives used in fracking, the millions of gallons of water consumed in the process, the large volumes of wastewater it generates and emissions of methane and other hydrocarbons to the atmosphere.

Companies in the industry have joined forces with the American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute to establish the ACS GCI Hydraulic Fracturing Roundtable. The members intend to collaborate on making oil and gas extraction processes more efficient and reducing the environmental footprint of fracking.

Founding members of the forum include oil and gas exploration and production companies Apache and Marathon Oil, gas- and oil-field services companies Rockwater Energy Solutions and Trican Well Service, water treatment services firm Nalco and chemicals giant Dow Chemical.

According to the ACS, the group will draw on resources from the Environmental Protection Agency's Design for the Environment and Green Chemistry programs and the Society of Petroleum Engineers working group on safer chemicals, among others.

Members hope to identify opportunities for the oil and gas industry to use green chemistry and engineering in hydraulic fracturing to help reduce overall chemical volume, toxicity and emissions of volatile organic compounds.

"The roundtable will focus on improving the environmental footprint of the industry by funding academic research for safer alternatives, sharing scientific information, developing tools that help operators make good choices, and communicating the facts with key stakeholders," explained Danny Durham, director of Global Upstream Chemicals at Apache and co-chair of the new roundtable.

"Given the high level of public concern about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, moving toward chemicals with less toxicity can not only reduce business risks and save money, but can also enable hydraulic fracturing companies to speak directly to the public's concern," added Richard Liroff, executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, who helped facilitate the group's formation.