Slickwater fracking fluid is descended from the napalm gel first used for fracturing wells in the 1940s. It is made of guar or a similar cellulose, and oil solvent (the most common according to Material Safety Data Sheets we've seen is diesel) forming a concentrate. At a well site this concentrate is mixed with water to create the gel. Our example is based on a fracture job in West Virginia where about 6 gallons of concentrate was used for each 1,000 gallons of water.
The gel's purpose is to help the water carry sand into the fractures. Additional products are used during fracturing, including biocides, cross-linkers, corrosion inhibitors, and breakers. Some gel at the end of the fracturing process remains in the formation and some is returned, unbroken, to the surface in flowback.
Guar is a substance used in the food industry as a thickener. Our concern is the oil solvent used in creating the gel. Most that appear in Halliburton's MSDS for liquid gel concentrate have adverse effects on the environment and human health. Attention has been focused on diesel and industry members, in a 2003 Memorandum of Agreement with the EPA, stated they would no longer use that solvent. In materials presented to a Congressional committee in 2010, companies admitted they'd used diesel since the Agreement was signed and in our examination of Halliburton's liquid gel concentrate MSDS materials diesel is the most common solvent by far. Other solvents, not covered by the 2003 Agreement, have similar adverse effects.
Land application of flowback from vertical wells is allowed in West Virginia under a special General Water Pollution Control Permit. What we are seeing is no visible negative effects on vegetation, but a persistence of a hydrocarbon odor in the application area days after. Our report on our 2010 land application study of chloride is available.
Toxic constituents of diesel, kerosene, gas oils, and other solvents easily migrate from the soil to surface and ground water.
Sincere thanks to J.S. for information about guar and its use in the food industry.
An Underground Injection Control Class 2 Well in Putnam County, WV
Three videos about issues at a UIC Class 2 well in Fayette county
Two Problem Wells
You Get Used To It
They Don't Do It That Way Any More: Fracturing with Explosives
Drilling Causing Problems in Wetzel County, West Virginia
Gas Well Study Cooking Class: Making Fracking Gel
Natural Gas: Blunders and Numbers
Bad Well Bad Well Bad Well
Natural Gas: Trashing the Surface Owner
Three Natural Gas Wells
Gas Well Study is the examination of natural gas wells in West Virginia.
Underground Injection Control Class 2 Wells
These wells are used either for the disposal of oil and gas liquid waste or for the enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas.
Gas Well Study Site Visits
Annual reports, environmental assessments, and individual well information.
Select videos from the Gas Well Study YouTube channel.
What Happened at Fernow
An investigation into what caused the vegetation death in the land application area after landspraying hydraulic fracture flowback waste.
The Spill at Buckeye Creek
An investigation into a spill from a Marcellus well site into Buckeye Creek in Doddridge county.