The Department of Justice is examining potential antitrust issues in the market for pressure pumping services, which are used in hydraulic fracturing, according to Baker Hughes Inc (BHI.N), owner of the third-largest pressure pumping fleet.
The market for pressure pumping equipment has been oversupplied for more than a year because a prolonged slump in natural gas prices led to a slowdown in gas-directed drilling. But in 2011, there was an industry-wide push to add capacity in response to a ramp-up in fracking around the country.
Baker Hughes said in a quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that on May 30, it had received a Civil Investigative Demand from the DOJ pursuant to the Antitrust Civil Process Act.
DOJ is seeking documents and information for the period from May 29, 2011 through May 30, 2013 in connection with an investigation related to U.S. pressure pumping services, the company added.
"We are working with the DOJ to provide the requested documents and information," Baker Hughes said in its filing. "We are not able to predict what action, if any, might be taken in the future by the DOJ or other governmental authorities as a result of the investigation."
The company gave no further details.
A spokeswoman for the Houston-based company was not immediately available for comment. Other leading U.S. pressure pumping companies include Halliburton (HAL.N) and Schlumberger (SLB.N), and officials for those companies were not immediately available either.
(Reporting by Braden Reddall in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)