Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Proven Safe (Again)

A key component of shale energy production made news this week as a group of University of Colorado-Boulder scientists released their findings about the safety of hydraulic fracturing fluid ingredients.

These researchers were studying the fluid that is used to create fissures in shale rock, which are then propped open by sand to allow oil and gas to flow to the surface. This decades old procedure has been safely used more than a million times in the United States. Despite the common usage of this technique, many people do not know that hydraulic fracturing fluid is typically composed of over 99.5% water and sand. The remaining half of a percent includes various components that are added to ensure safe and efficient energy production. 

These added ingredients include a variety of common substances. For example, “acids dissolve minerals and initiate cracks” in the shale rock, while “gelling agents” (such as guar gum which is found in ice cream) “are used to suspend sand in the water”. Also, “friction reducers lubricate the fissures”, and “pipes are protected by corrosion and scaling inhibitors” and “biocides” that control microbial growth.

While the ingredients that compose this small portion of hydraulic fracturing fluid may seem unusual, they are actually quite common and are the very same chemicals that can be found in the average American household. 

According to an article in USA Today, University of Colorado-Boulder researchers found that hydraulic fracturing fluid used in shale energy production "contains many of the same chemicals found in toothpaste, laundry detergent and laxatives."

The scientists "tested fracking fluid samples from" different sites in "Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Texas" and found that the safety of these chemicals is consistent with statements made by the energy industry companies in recent years.

Michael Thurman of the University of Colorado Laboratory for Environmental Mass Spectrometry told The Daily Camera that their research found ingredients that are "friendly to the environment...(these) compounds are not the kinds of things we consider toxic."

Do you like this post?