Posting in Energy
What's in that fracking fluid? Democrats within the House Energy & Commerce Committee release a report detailing many toxins found within fluids used during natural gas drilling practices.
A Congressional report released over the weekend found that the country's leading natural gas drilling companies pumped toxic chemicals into the ground during hydraulic fracturing.
Written by(D-CA), (D-MA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), the report is the latest in a long line of investigations into the controversial drilling practice.
“Hydrofracking,” or “fracking,” helps drillers access large supplies of natural gas held within the country's shale formations. The report states, however, that drilling operations within 13 states injected 780 million gallons of fracking fluids (not including water which is also used) into wells over a four-year time frame. Many of the chemicals listed within the fluids are toxic.
Representative Waxman says in a statement:
Hydraulic fracturing has helped to expand natural gas production in the United States, but we must ensure that these new resources don’t come at the expense of public health. This report shows that these companies are injecting millions of gallons of products that contain potentially hazardous chemicals, including known carcinogens. I urge EPA and DOE to make certain that we have strong protections in place to prevent these chemicals from entering drinking water supplies.
Hydrofracking involves injecting water and sand into natural gas wells at high pressure. This is done to fracture tight shale formations and release the natural gas trapped within them. That the chemicals could leach into groundwater is the main concern, and something the EPA has been looking deeper into.
Environmentalists and regulators have criticized drilling companies for not disclosing the contents of their fracking fluids. Earlier this year, my colleague David Worthington discussed the injection of diesel fuel into wells during fracking operations.
From the most recent report, which was released a few days earlier than scheduled:
Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 leading hydraulic fracturing companies in the United States used over 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 compounds. More than 650 of these products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants.
The most widely used chemical in hydraulic fracturing during this time period, as measured by the number of compounds containing the chemical, was methanol. Methanol, which was used in 342 hydraulic fracturing products, is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Some of the other most widely used chemicals were isopropyl alcohol (used in 274 products), 2-butoxyethanol (used in 126 products), and ethylene glycol (used in 119 products).
An attorney from Bracewell & Giuliani, which represents several gas drilling companies, told the New York Times on Saturday that the report's numbers were skewed regarding the volume of the fluids and the volumes of the toxins within the fluids. The Times reports:
Some ingredients mixed into the hydraulic fracturing fluids were common and generally harmless, like salt and citric acid. Others were unexpected, like instant coffee and walnut hulls, the report said. Many ingredients were “extremely toxic,” including benzene, a known human carcinogen, and lead.
Companies injected large amounts of other hazardous chemicals, including 11.4 million gallons of fluids containing at least one of the toxic or carcinogenic B.T.E.X. chemicals — benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene. The companies used the highest volume of fluids containing one or more carcinogens in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.
Last month, Texas saw a bill introduced to its state legislature that would require companies drilling in the state to publicly disclose the chemicals they use. Other states—including Colorado, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania—have passed similar measures.
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Fracking poses uranium contamination risk, researchers say
- EPA digs deeper into fracturing for natural gas
- Is natural gas fracking too dangerous for Europe?
- There's no fracking way polluters won't be bad actors
- Hydro-frackers to EPA: We used diesel. Tough.
Apr 17, 2011
It was also revealed on a CSI: re-run on Thursday night. Seriously, I thought it was presented realistically for an entertainment show and the bad guys got it in the end.
@YetAnotherBob, and any other corporate apologists here.. I'd like to see some horizontal drilling under the land you sit above. You might change your tune if you watched the documentary Gasland. There's no need for hype - the truth is bad enough, and no one is going Luddite on you. There are those of us that are sensible enough to think that the permanent fouling of the aquifer isn't worth any corporate profit, as well as those of us informed enough to realize that the industry is only about profit, and they're willing to do whatever they need to do, at whatever cost to the environment. One can only hope that those that are ready to give the industry free reign get to suffer from the consequences of that attitude as much as those of us that knew better all along.
It's good to see the esoteric toxic practice of fracking gaining coverage in the mainstream media. The amount of drilling going on, with politicians welcoming big oil/Gas into their states with minimal concern for public health, is scandalous . I appreciate the three democrats in congress just publishing the report on the 750 chemicals using in fracking liquid. I posted info on the report, info on fracking, and tips on what you you can do to find out what is going on in your state, and what you can do about it. See: http://8020vision.com/2011/04/17/congress-releases-report-on- toxic-chemicals-used-in-fracking/ The fracking liquid contains dozens of toxins and known carcinogens. The 2005 Bush/Cheney energy bill had some clever loopholes in it to allow oil/gas companies unregulated freedom to drill with impunity. The public is catching on. There was just a major fracking spill yesterday, and the toxins are entering creaks in the area, which drain out to the Chesapeake Bay. The northeast is ground zero for drilling this year, with thousands of wells projected to be drilled in PA, NY, NJ, etc. Do your homework, and let friends in those states know about fracking. Jay Kimball 8020 Vision
@CSouthard "Did anyone happen to note what happens to the frack fluids after the job is complete? Of course not because that would kill a perfectly good rant over very very little. They are pumped out of the well! Then they are disposed of. " Ah yes. In PA they were being dumped into the river. Nothing to worry about.
Why does it take three Democratic congressmen to highlight this issue? Is it because, as usual, Republicans want us to believe we can just blindly trust Big Business to do the right thing without any oversight? And this comes out as the House Republicans continue to battle to weaken the power of the EPA to protect the public. Are there no Republican congressmen with the guts to buck corporate lobbyists and fight for public health? Apparently not. I guess you won't get any attention from the right-hand side of the congressional floor unless your last name is INC.
here's the main problem, from the report 2 clicks away: While most underground injections of chemicals are subject to the protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Congress in 2005 modified the law to exclude ?the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities? from the Act?s protections.6 Unless oil and gas service companies use diesel in the hydraulic fracturing process, the permanent underground injection of chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
@CSouthard The nature of fracking is to fracture the formations, thus, the formations no longer are solidly capable of holding the chemicals. Also, chemicals like alcohol travel can faster through rock and other materials than water. This was the main problem with MTBE in gasoline, a small leak in a gas station fuel tank, that over years, the gasoline would travel several feet, and contaminated soil could be dug up, the MTBE in the gas moved tens of thousands of feet. There are ex-gas station locations that have for 15 years been shut down, that still are fenced off, with piping running all over, pumping water out of the ground to keep the plume from spreading. Mini Superfund type sites, at who knows what costs to taxpayers, that will be operating in perpetuity. The drillers have been able to inject anything they wanted into the ground, because it is a secret formula, and there's really no way they can pump even a majority of it back out afterwards, and there's no one checking that they even try.
Why is there no link to this "Congressional report" so I can read it for myself, instead of having you drop bits and pieces of it into this article?
Did anyone happen to note what happens to the frack fluids after the job is complete? Of course not because that would kill a perfectly good rant over very very little. They are pumped out of the well! Then they are disposed of. Did anyone ask how much of these chemicals are actually in the frack fluids per job. Of course not since that would ruin the scary factor. At least in Texas, well operators have to prove that they have protected the potential water supplies and that protection extends several hundred feet below the known potable water formations. Oh, think about the formations - they have trapped oil, natural gas and water for millenia. You think they can hold some alcohol?
There are waste water businesses operating in North Texas. The frack water from the Barnett Shale is no longer going back into the soil. (Check out what happened in Wise County, Texas) It is now carried off and treated. Some of the toxins that are removed are repurposed. There may be a problem with having enough of these waste water businesses to supply the demand right now, so it would be a good way to make a buck if you go for that sort of work. The Devon site might have some information on this.
This will be an unpopular opinion on this board, but, .. Hydraulic fracturing has been a contentious subject for several years. But, the materials listed here are all biodegradable. Methanol, benzine (and its isomers), isopropyl alcohols, these are all food for existing underground species of bacteria. What is the half life of the fluids in the ground? Can the gas companies mix in a cocktail of non-hazardous bacteria to deliberately degrade the fracturing liquid? How long will it take? can it be sped up? Where gas is found, there is usually oil nearby. Does this process release any of the oil or other hydrocarbons into the water table? if so, can the oil be recovered as part of a water supply policy? The main complaint with 'fracking' is the effect on the water supply. The two needs do not have to be antithetical. Sorry to have to tell you this, but hydraulic fracturing is just another method of mining. The mining can be non threatening. We just have to insist that it is. If the resource extraction companies are liable, they will clean up the act. This is a problem for State lawmakers. So, let's not all go Luddite here.
Noted "released over weekend", which is ALWAYS the period when news is least read, Rule one of spin and PR, weekends, ALWAYS the time business, government wants to low ball bad news, so it seems "released over weekend" a bit suspicious as to true concern.
Agreed, that is my point about the lack of caution that is behind fracking. If fracking was done safely and sustainably then it helps with reducing energy costs. Fracking done badly is as destructive to the environment as mountain top removal. The execs need to put their fortunes on the line and know that they will be held responsible for any problem; otherwise they will off load responsibility on the land owners.
Fracking in general is a risky practice. I think most people would generally agree with your statement as it is worded but fracking is inherently risky. The problem is that you can't predict what will happen when underground beds of rock start cracking under explosive pressure. Fracking is not an entirely controllable process. Further, the fact that it takes an act of congress to make these guys fess up about the chemicals they are using suggests they don't think much of the general public anyway. They just want to take what they can and get paid. I'll bet you they aren't doing this drilling in their own back yards.
Anyone want to bet that someone has figured out that they can make a little money on the side by using toxic waste? Someone has some barrel of toxic sludge that they need to get rid of and some guy has the bright idea of killig two birds with one envirnmental nightmare.
The only good fracking is no fracking! Fracking threatens the water supply of over 100 million Americans. It is a pending disaster that will make the recent Gulf spill look like a hiccup. It could ruin the ground water across large swaths of America - a disaster that would be permanent on a human scale. The frackers claim that their wells are much deeper than the aquifer, but all it takes is a problem with the casing going down into the well for their poisons and natural gas to leach into the water table. They can't promise that it won't happen, and it's almost guaranteed that it will, over and over again, as it already has happened many times. This issue should be at the top of everyone's list! See the documentary Gasland, and stop the gas companies before it's too late!
As long as the resources can be extracted hygenically and without damaging drinking water source, then I don't have a problem with fracking. It is when the drinking water sources get ruined by risky practises that should be the deciding factor in discontinuing fracking. What good is it to have fuel when the environment becomes unihabitable?