Halliburton part of U.S. fracing antitrust inquiry


Halliburton part of U.S. fracing antitrust inquiry

HOUSTON -- Halliburton has been contacted by the Justice Department's Antitrust Division as part of the government's probe into pressure pumping, a key component of hydraulic fracturing, the company said Thursday.

The company, which is the largest provider of pressure pumping work in the U.S., said it received a "civil investigative demand" from the agency during the second quarter, and is in the process of responding.

"We understand there have been other participants in the industry who have received similar correspondence from the DOJ, and we do not believe that we are being singled out for any particular scrutiny," spokeswoman Beverly Blohm Stafford wrote in an email. "We intend to continue to cooperate with the DOJ's inquiries and requests in these investigations."

Baker Hughes Inc., another oilfield services provider, said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday that the Justice Department had sought information relating to the pressure pumping market beginning May 29, 2011.

The Justice Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neither company provided additional details about the scope of the investigation or the specific information being requested by the government.

Schlumberger Ltd., which with Halliburton and Baker Hughes accounted for more than 60% of the pressure-pumping market in the U.S. according to data compiled by Barclays PLC, didn't respond to a request for comment.

Pressure pumping is the main step in the hydraulic fracturing process--it involves shooting water and other materials down a well to unleash oil and natural gas trapped in rock formations underground. The technique has helped usher in a boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production.

Though the three big oilfield services companies still dominate the pressure-pumping market, their share has fallen from more than 70% five years ago, including work done by a company that is now owned by Baker Hughes. New companies entered the business and others expanded their pressure pumping capabilities, and the size of the market has soared from less than $8 billion a decade ago to about $46.6 billion last year. Margins in the pressure pumping business peaked during the third quarter of 2011, but fell sharply last year as natural-gas prices decreased.

Dow Jones Newswires

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