Click to enlarge — The Jonah natural gas field in Wyoming
The chemicals found in fracking fluid collected in five states — including Colorado — were no more toxic than common household substances, according to a newly released study by researchers at the University of Colorado.
The study…found that chemicals in the fracking fluid samples also were found in everyday products such as toothpaste, detergent, ice cream and laxatives.
Michael Thurman…said, “At least so far, we’re finding chemicals that are more friendly to the environment,” Thurman said. “The compounds are not the kinds of things we consider toxic.”
The study examined samples from Colorado, Nevada, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas. According to the researchers, fracking fluid is comprised mostly of water and sand, but oil and gas companies add a variety of other chemicals such as anti-bacterial agents, corrosion inhibitors and surfactants — chemicals that reduce the surface tension between water and oil…
There have been concerns about the chemicals used by oil and gas companies in fracking. Recent state and federal regulations require companies to disclose what is being used in their fracking fluids, but companies typically use broad chemical categories to describe the actual ingredients to avoid revealing what they consider proprietary information.
The researchers cautioned that individual well operators might use different chemicals based on location, and said there are still other concerns about fracking, including air pollution, the antimicrobial biocides used in fracking fluids, wastewater disposal triggering earthquakes and the large amount of water used.
But Thurman said water pollution from surfactants in fracking fluid may not be as concerning as some people had thought, with the really toxic surfactants, such as endocrine disruptors, not being used in the wells that were tested.
“Not finding those chemicals is really important,” he said.
Thurman said he plans to continue analyzing the surfactants used in fracking and wants to look at more samples to determine if those he identified in the study are in fact used widely. If they are, he said, they could be used as markers to determine if a well or other groundwater source has been contaminated by fracking fluid.
A pleasant surprise. Well drillers are gunshy because of the number of times they’ve been caught and found guilty of environmental degradation. They’ve actually increased the perception of wrongdoing by their secrecy fetish.
I’ve worried less about the process of fracking than most of my enviro peers because I have at least a minimal comprehensions of geology. Looking at aquifers here in Santa Fe County I get lots of chuckles from panic-stricken water dweebs who don’t know what an aquifer really is, how many we have in the region and how thoroughly they are separated. Plus – I admit – I’m a little smug from living at the dead end of the major Ancha aquifer – watching the water table rise because everyone upstream is diligently working at using less water. 🙂
The most important points Michael Thurman raises remain – and should guide opposition to more oil well-drilling in general – especially air pollution, wastewater disposal triggering earthquakes and the large amount of water used. Methane is going to continue to work its way into the atmosphere from every kind of oil well/oil field on the planet. Most of the industry’s production is from fields with lower standards than the United States. And you might remember that we’re only 6% of the land mass on the planet.
The fight against fossil fuel has to be planet-wide – and dedicated. Not just this election cycle – not just because the Blue Meanie Republicans are obedient pawns of the Oil Patch Boys.
Collateral damage – from Mike’s research: Sioux Nations oppose Keystone XL pipeline.