The US Environmental Protection Agency announced its final hydraulic fracturing research plan. It will look at the full cycle of water in fracing, from its acquisition through its mixture with chemicals and actual fracing, to its post-fracing stage, including management of flowback and produced water as well as its ultimate treatment and disposal, EPA said.

Initial research results and study findings will be released to the public in 2012, with the final report scheduled for delivery in 2014, EPA said. It noted that it announced locations earlier this year of five retrospective and two prospective case studies.

Oil and gas industry associations immediately responded to EPA’s Nov. 3 announcement. The American Petroleum Institute said while it is still studying final details of the agency’s final study plan, it is confident that a full examination of fracing will confirm that the process poses no significant risk to human health, drinking water resources, or the environment.

“The oil and gas industry has a key role to play in the future of American energy production,” said Stephanie Meadows, API’s upstream senior policy advisor. “The industry has taken the lead in working with state regulators to constantly improve operations, industry practices and guidelines, as well as improve communications with local communities.”