What’s in my Frack Fluid?Let’s consider a frack site in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. This particular frack site is right in the middle of Marcellus Shale country and lies along the state’s Western border, and is located in a rural community similar to many areas of the middle inner-East Coast.
The nearest house is approximately 300 meters away and the nearest neighbourhood is 1200 meters away. Within 3000 meters from the site lies a sprawling golf course and a small community of 20 houses.
The frack site itself lies right in the centre of a former farm field in an overall idyllic setting, and is run by the Chesapeake Energy (Appalachia LLC). With such a close proximity to such a small community, the chemicals used in the frack lead to more questions than answers when 65.47 tons of the fluid is almost completely unaccounted for.
A quick look at the ingredients list reveals a seemingly well-balanced mixture (for a fluid that, y’know, breaks open rocks hundreds of feet below the ground) that is commonly repeated in other fracks in the area run by the same company.
The frack fluid mostly contains water (89%), with another 9.3% of the fluid being sand. While on the surface this may seem to be a non-toxic, unthreatening mixture, it must be kept in mind that these two ingredients that constitute up to 98.3% of a frack fluid recipe equal out to about 25,025.17 tons of liquid. Now consider that the remaining chemicals constitute an additional 132.82 tons, or 1.7%, of the mixture.
Though most of these remaining chemicals measure out to be below one ton, there are larger amounts of some certain ingredients. For instance, hydrogen chloride totals a whopping 41.16 tons. Other ingredients, such as a ‘carbohydrate polymer’ are listed at comprising 33.17 tons, and a ‘synthetic organic polymer’ makes up 20.76 tons.
Other high amounts of ingredients include tetramethyl ammonium chloride (12.87 tons), ‘aliphatic polyol’ (11.10 tons), potassium hydroxide (5.55 tons) and hydrotreated petroleum distillate (2.99 tons).
The problem in these ingredients isn’t necessarily the actual product in the fluid, but what the product even is. Each ingredient I’ve listed in the above paragraph that is in quotation marks is an ingredient that is missing a CAS number, or Chemical Abstract Service number.
These numbers are used to register each chemical in a large database on the website FracFocus.org, a website which is used by the fracking industry to publish their frack site information (i.e. location, ingredients in frack fluid used) for the public to see.
Counting the three ingredients I’ve already listed in this article (the aliphatic polyol, the carbohydrate polymer and the synthetic organic polymer) there are a total of six ingredients in this particular mixture that have no CAS number listed.
Totaled, this means almost half of the chemicals listed have been left unaccounted for.
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