What is the “water mixed with other components” which is pumped into the ground?
Below is a list of commonly used chemicals, though the cocktails vary from company to company.
It is important to note that a fresh chemical cocktail may not be used each time. This mixture
is often “recycled”- used over and over, until it is finally disposed of. The use (no.3 & 4)
and disposal (no.5) of this industrial waste calls into play many health concerns.
“The make‐up of fracturing fluid varies from one geologic basin or formation to another,”
Some of the chemicals listed go by multiple names not included here.
ACID (Helps dissolve minerals and initiate cracks in the rock)
BIOCIDE (Eliminates bacteria in the water that produces corrosive by-products)
Glutaraldehyde; Quaternary Ammonium Chloride; Quaternary Ammonium Chloride; Tetrakis
BREAKERS (Allows a delayed break down of the gel/ Stabilizers)
Ammonium Persulfate; Sodium Chloride; Magnesium Peroxide; Magnesium Oxide; Calcium Chloride
CLAY STABILIZERS (Prevents clays from swelling or shifting)
Choline Chloride; Tetramethyl ammonium chloride; Sodium Chloride
CORROSION INHIBITORS (Prevents pipe corrosion/ Stabilizers and / or winterizing agents)
Isopropanol; Methanol; Formic Acid; Acetaldehyde
CROSSLINKERS (Maintains fluid viscosity as temperature increases/ Stabilizers)
Petroleum Distillate; Hydrotreated Light Petroleum Distillate; Potassium Metaborate;
Triethanolamine Zirconate; Sodium Tetraborate; Boric Acid; Zirconium Complex; Borate Salts;
Ethylene Glycol; Methanol
FRICTION REDUCERS (“Slicks” the water to minimize friction/ Stabilizers)
Polyacrylamide; Petroleum Distillate; Hydrotreated Light Petroleum Distillate; Methanol;
GELLING AGENTS (Thickens the water in order to suspend the sand/ Stabilizers)
Guar Gum; Petroleum Distillate; Hydrotreated Light Petroleum Distillate; Methanol;
Polysaccharide Blend; Ethylene Glycol
IRON CONTROL (Prevents precipitation of metal oxides)
Citric Acid; Acetic Acid; Thioglycolic Acid; Sodium Erythorbate
NON-EMULSIFIERS (Prevents the formation of emulsions in the fracture/ Stabilizers)
Lauryl Sulfate; Isopropanol; Ethylene Glycol
pH ADJUSTING AGENTS (Adjusts the pH of fluid to maintain effectiveness of other components)
Sodium Hydroxide; Potassium Hydroxide; Acetic Acid; Sodium Carbonate; Potassium Carbonate
SCALE INHIBITORS (Prevents scale deposits in the pipe)
Copolymer of Acrylamide and Sodium Acrylate; Sodium Polycarboxylate; Phosphonic Acid Salt
SURFACTANTS (Used to increase the viscosity of the fracture fluid/ Stabilizers)
Lauryl Sulfate; Ethanol; Naphthalene; Methanol; Isopropyl Alcohol; 2-Butoxyethanol
The chemical mixture by itself does not generally become a concern until it is used, however at
any point during the fracking process dangerous spills can occur. Often a spill might occur
during a blow-out (a sudden release of oil and gas from a well), frack-hit (when too close to
another well), or while in transportation. When the chemicals used in fracking spill into
streams, seep into the groundwater, evaporate into the air, or otherwise contaminate a
watershed, many negative health effects can be experienced.
“Meet the Master Well Formula — the chemical cocktail that Encana Corp. will use to
hydraulically fracture every natural gas well it drills in Wyoming’s Jonah Field.”
“Many of the substances used in the fracking process are toxic. Some, like formaldehyde, are
known carcinogens. There are significant risks associated with the release of dangerous
substances used in fracking. Blow-outs have occurred during fracking operations and spills of
fracking fluids and other chemicals have polluted streams and lakes. Fracking is a suspected
cause of groundwater contamination.
Documented reports link fracking contamination with medically-confirmed health impacts in
animals, including diseases, deaths, and second-generation birth defects. And contaminants from
fracking have been found at levels that pose a threat to human health.” -NRDC.org
EXAMPLES OF SPILLS (DUE TO FRACK-HITS)
“The incidents are called frack hits because they happen when the fractures of two wells
intersect. The communicating wells have, in cases, been as far apart as 1.8 miles, though it is
more common for the wells to be less than 3,000 feet apart. That is too close for comfort
because most states allow adjacent horizontal well bores to be about 600 feet from each other.”
Oklahoma: A well being fracked communicated with a neighboring well on June 7, 2012, spilling
714 gallons of oil and produced water. The spill was cleaned up.
Arkansas: A well being fracked hit another well on Nov. 2, 2012, spilling 3,300 gallons of
produced water. The spill was contained in the berm and cleaned up.
Montana: Two wells communicated during fracking on Jan 3, 2012, spilling about 35,000 gallons
of oil and water. The spill was cleaned up.
West Virginia: Two frack hits have come to the attention of the DEP since 2011: one where a
company was fracking in the Marcellus Shale and communicated with producing wells, and another
where a company was fracking in the Berea sandstone formation and communicated with an
Frequently, fracking companies do not disclose what chemical cocktail they used for fracking.
This causes problems for those seeking to clean-up, take measurements, or warn to the public
when spills or contamination of local watersheds occur. Recently, more and more laws are being
passed which require fracking companies to release their list of chemicals.
These are the reasons given by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for why
hydraulic fracturing chemical mixtures ought to be publicly disclosed:
“Disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking, the waste generated and its management, and the
details of how and where fracturing was completed, is essential for the following reasons:*
The Acorn Fork, a small Appalachian creek, is habitat for the federally threatened Blackside
dace, a small colorful minnow. The Acorn Fork is designated by Kentucky as an Outstanding State
“Our study is a precautionary tale of how entire populations could be put at risk even with
small-scale fluid spills,” said USGS scientist Diana Papoulias, the study’s lead author. “This
is especially the case if the species is threatened or is only found in limited areas, like the
Blackside dace is in the Cumberland.”
The Blackside dace typically lives in small, semi-isolated groups, so harmful events run the
risk of completely eliminating a local population. The species is primarily threatened with
loss of habitat.
After the spill of hydraulic fracturing fluid, state and federal scientists observed a
significant die-off of aquatic life in Acorn Fork including the Blackside dace as well as
several more common species like the Creek chub and Green sunfish. They had been alerted by a
local resident who witnessed the fish die-off. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the
Commonwealth of Kentucky are currently working towards restoration of the natural resources
that were injured by the release.
To determine the cause of the fish die-off, the researchers collected water and fish samples
immediately following the chemical release in 2007.
The samples analyses and results clearly showed that the hydraulic fracturing fluids
degraded water quality in Acorn Fork, to the point that the fish developed gill lesions,
and suffered liver and spleen damage as well.
“This is an example of how the smallest creatures can act as a canary in a coal mine,” said
Tony Velasco, Ecologist for the Fish and Wildlife office in Kentucky, who coauthored the study,
and initiated a multi-agency response when it occurred in 2007. “These species use the same
water as we do, so it is just as important to keep our waters clean for people and for
The gill lesions were consistent with exposure to acidic water and toxic concentrations of
heavy metals. These results matched water quality samples from Acorn Fork that were taken
after the spill.
After the fracturing fluids entered Acorn Fork Creek, the water’s pH dropped from 7.5 to 5.6,
and stream conductivity increased from 200 to 35,000 microsiemens per centimeter.
A low pH number indicates that the creek had become more acidic, and the stream conductivity
indicated that there were higher levels of dissolved elements including iron and aluminum.
Blackside dace are a species of ray-finned fish found only in the Cumberland River basin of
Kentucky and Tennessee and the Powell River basin of Virginia. It has been listed as a
federally-threatened species by the Service since 1987.
Hydraulic fracturing is the most common method for natural gas well-development in Kentucky.”
FRACKING CHEMICAL COCKTAIL
http://www.propublica.org/special/what-the-frack-is-in-that-water (cocktail and waste water)
FRACKING WATER SPILLS
http://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/fracking-across-the-united-states (accidents map)
http://www.eenews.net/special_reports/overflow (oil & gas spills)
http://www.gilbertsville.com/fracking/frackaccidents.pdf (civilian compilation)
IN THE NEWS (few PA examples)
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