Do you remember the Era Plus detergent commercial from 1987 which touted the use of protein as an ingredient to help get out protein stains like grass and food? Essentially what they were saying is “like dissolves like.” Even though water is known as the “universal solvent” because it has both a positive and negative charge, there are some things water simply won’t dissolve, like oils and grease.
So why am I mentioning it? Fracking is occurring at alarming rate around the country. The process uses a water-based concoction of chemicals to force oil and natural gas out of tight shale formations. If oil and water don’t mix then what are the chemicals they include to help extract the oil from the formation? Well most of the oil companies will tell you that’s “proprietary” information – meaning they it’s a trade secret and they don’t have to tell you.
Dr. Dave Healy of the University of Abedeen, U.K. noted in a July 2012 study that while there isn’t a lot of peer reviewed scientific research into the potential environmental impacts of fracking, he believes “there are potentially significant risks from the nature and fate of the fluids used in the drilling and fracturing processes as well as the effects of the natural gas released.”
The FracFocus online chemical disclosure registry states “although there are dozens to hundreds of chemicals which could be used as additives, there are a limited number which are routinely used in hydraulic fracturing.” On their website they list 58 chemicals commonly used in hydraulic fracking.1 Some of these are petroleum distillates or oil derivatives that act as “carrier fluids” or lubricants to help transport materials into or out of the wellbore; essentially they are petroleum products which help get out petroleum products.
Petroleum distillates are a class of hydrocarbon solvents which include mineral spirits (paint thinners), kerosene, naphtha (used in moth balls), and Stoddard solvent (dry cleaning solvent). They are controversial among environmental and water advocates because of known or suspected health impacts. Naphtha, for example, may have chemical components which are carcinogenic or teratogenic such as benzene and toluene.
Do these chemicals sound like anything you’d like deliberately pumped into the ground under high pressure?
- Healy, Dave. “Hydraulic Fracturing or ‘Fracking’: A Short Summary of Current Knowledge and Potential Environmental Impacts”. University of Aberdeen, UK. July 2012.
- “What Chemicals are Used?” FracFocus. No date. Web. 27 November 2016.