Overall, the 14 companies used 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products between 2005 and 2009. The large volume of chemicals and components used in the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process does not include the large volume of water necessary to perform the job.
The report, Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing
(pdf), comes after an investigation on fracking and its potential impact on US water quality was launched by Congress’ Committee on Energy and Commerce in February 2010.
Eight oil and gas companies initially received letters at that time from the committee requesting information on types and volumes of chemicals each company used in the fracking process between 2005 and 2009. Last May, an additional six oil and gas companies were sent letters as well.
The 14 companies that received the letters were Basic Energy Services, BJ Services, Calfrac Well Services, Complete Production Services, Frac Tech Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services, RPC, Sanjel Corporation, Schlumberger, Superior Well Services, Trican Well Service, Universal Well Services, and Weatherford.
Among the many toxic chemical components used, methanol topped the list. It is a hazardous air pollutant as well as a candidate for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA), and was used in 342 of 652 different fracking products.
Second on the toxic chemicals list was ethylene glycol, used in 119 fracking products. It is also a hazardous air pollutant. Known carcinogenic agents used were diesel, naphthalene, formaldehyde, thiourea, nitrilotriacetic acid, benzene, Di (2-ehtylhexyl) phthalate, acrylamide, acetaldehyde, ethylene oxide, lead, and propylene oxide.
Another high-volume chemical component used in fracking is 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE). It is known to cause hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells) and damage to the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 companies combined to inject 21.9 million gallons of products containing 2-BE into the fracking process. Texas led the way with the highest volume of fracking fluids containing 2-BE, with 12,031,734 gallons, according to the report. Rounding out the top five states, in gallons, were Oklahoma (2,186,613), New Mexico (1,871,501), Colorado (1,147,614), and Louisiana (890,068).
In 2005, Congress modified the SDWA to exclude “the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operationrelated to oil, gas, or geothermal activities” from its protections, according to the report. Unless oil and gas service companies involved in fracking are using diesel, the permanent underground injection of fracking chemicals is not monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
While the fracking process itself is not subject to the SDWA, the injection of fracking wastewater into underground storage wells is. The wastewater is also stored in pits or tanks at well sites, where spills can occur. In addition to the tanks, pits and wells, inal disposal of the wastewater includes reintroduction into the ground for future fracking jobs, discharging it to nearby surface water areas, or transporting it to wastewater treatment facilities.
The report comes just after a group of scientists released a study on natural gas extraction
from shale formations and its associated greehouse gas footprint. That report strongly urges greater study on the fracking process, including the measuring and accounting for escaped gases the process assures.
As more and more information comes to light on fracking, people in regions
where the controversial method is used for obtaining natural gas stored between layers of shale have repeatedly voiced their concerns, and as more and more water supplies become impacted, the issue is likely to end up in the legal arena, with the report noting
Any risk to the environment and human health posed by fracturing fluids depends in large part on their contents. Federal law, however, contains no public disclosure requirements for oil and gas producers or service companies involved in hydraulic fracturing, and state disclosure requirements vary greatly.
The industry recently announced it will soon provide a public database of fracking components, but participation in the database by oil and gas companies is strictly voluntary. Additionally, the new database will not include chemical identities of proprietary products, nor will there be any way to determine the accuracy of companies’ reporting information on all wells, according to the Congressional report.
The fracking process allows individual oil and gas companies to create fracturing fluids based on soil compositions. These compositions range from simple sand and water mixtures to complex mixtures with a multitude of chemical additives. The report shows that
Some of these chemicals, if not disposed of safely or allowed to leach into the drinking water supply, could damage the environment or pose a risk to human health. During hydraulic fracturing, fluids containing chemicals are injected deep underground, where their migration is not entirely predictable. Well failures, such as the use if insufficient well casing, could lead to their release at shallower depths, closer to drinking water supplies. Although some fracturing fluids are removed from the well at the end of the fracturing process, a substantial amount remains underground.
Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 fracking compaines used 67 products that contained at least one of eight SDWA-regulated chemicals. The companies injected 11.7 million gallons of fracking products containing at least one of the SDWA-regulated chemicals. Again, Texas led that list, with 9,474,631 gallons of fracking fluids containing a SDWA-regulated chemical. New Mexico came in second with 1,157,721 gallons.
Adding to the assault on the environment, these companies also use fracking chemical components that are listed on their Material Safety Data Sheets as proprietary and “trade secret,” the report notes. Between 2005 and 2009, these companies used 93.6 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one proprietary component.
Although Congress requested disclosure of these proprietary products,
in most cases the companies stated that they did not have access to proprietary information about products they purchased “off the shelf” from chemical suppliers.
In essence, the report summarizes, these companies are injecting fluids into the ground that they themselves are unable to identify.