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Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing

Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing

Author(s):
Henry A. Waxman, Edward J. Markey, and Diana DeGette

Date:
04.2011

Source / Publisher:
US House of Representatives
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE
MINORITY STAFF

“… the Committee asked the 14 leading oil and gas service companies to disclose the types and volumes of the hydraulic fracturing products they used in their fluids between 2005 and 2009 and the chemical contents of those products. This report summarizes the information provided to the Committee.”

Key points:

  • Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 oil and gas service companies used more than 2,500
    hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 chemicals and other components. Overall, these
    companies used 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products – not including water added
    at the well site – between 2005 and 2009.
  • Some of the components used in the hydraulic fracturing products were common and
    generally harmless, such as salt and citric acid. Some were unexpected, such as instant coffee
    and walnut hulls. And some were extremely toxic, such as benzene and lead. Appendix A lists
    each of the 750 chemicals and other components used in hydraulic fracturing products between
    2005 and 2009.
  • 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).
  • Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing
    products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2)
    regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as
    hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were components of more
    than 650 different products used in hydraulic fracturing.
  • The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – appeared in 60 of
    the hydraulic fracturing products used between 2005 and 2009. Each BTEX compound is a
    regulated contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act and a hazardous air pollutant under the
    Clean Air Act. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies
    injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five
    year period.
  • In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to provide the
    Committee with a complete chemical makeup of the hydraulic fracturing fluids they used.
    Between 2005 and 2009, the companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at
    least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret.
    Committee staff requested that these companies disclose this proprietary information. Although
    some companies did provide information about these proprietary fluids, in most cases the
    companies stated that they did not have access to proprietary information about products they
    purchased “off the shelf” from chemical suppliers. In these cases, the companies are injecting
    fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify.

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