In a great move by Range Resources, an operator finally mentioned the 10,000-pound elephant in the room by releasing their frac fluid recipe in the Marcellus Shale play to the public and the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (although the DEP already has this type of information, see Pennsylvania DEP discloses frac chemicals, but wait that list is a little long…). The funny thing is that it really is more like a 14-pound shih tzu-sized elephant considering that only 0.14% of the infamous solution is chemical additives, the rest being water and children’s play sand. Now as interesting as water and play sand would be to discuss, we will breakdown that 0.14% of Range’s recipe and common uses for the chemicals according to their Hydraulic Fracturing – Marcellus Shale PDF they released earlier this month. The following graph is from that PDF and is a good illustration of how small the percentage of chemical additives actually is.
First we will start with the largest piece of the 0.14% pie, the Antimicrobial Agent at 0.06% of the total solution. The Antimicrobial Agent’s purpose is to eliminate bacteria in the frac fluid water that produce corrosive byproducts. Other common uses of this type of ingredient is water treatment and to sterilize medical and dental equipment. Interesting enough, Southwestern Energy has been testing an environmentally friendly solution that replaces the need for this chemical additive in the Fayetteville Shale play that you can read about in my Eco-Friendly Frac Fluid Tested in Fayetteville blog.
Next is the Friction Reducer which is 0.05% of the total solution and is used to reduce friction between the pipe and the fluid. Commonly it is also used in water treatment, as a soil conditioner and surprisingly in some children’s toys. Diluted Acid makes up 0.03% of the solution and is used to dissolve cement and minerals and initiate fractures. Another name for it is hydrochloric acid and is used in swimming pools and house hold cleaners. The last 0.01% is a Scale Inhibitor which prevents scale deposit in the pipe and is also commonly used in water treatment, household cleaners and as a de-icing agent.
Now, although these highly diluted frac chemicals are used in everyday life, doctor’s offices, swimming pools, children’s toys, etc… I wouldn’t want to make it a habit of drinking them. Ultimately the root of public concern, which is very understandable, is these chemicals getting into our freshwater aquifers and drinking water. One thing to take into account is that this frac fluid is used 1 mile below water aquifers. To put that into perspective, Range equates that to 17 Statues of Liberty on top of another to reach where the fracing fluid is actually used. On top of that, the frac fluid is flowed back out of the well and the remaining fluid slowly comes out through the wellbore or remains trapped in the reservoir thousands of feet below. It is in operator’s best interest that they remove as much of the frac fluid as possible because they are able to recycle and reuse it. Another concern is the frac fluid getting into the water supply on the way down the hole or coming back out but this is addressed with multiple layers of steel and cement to insulate the flow. Although all of these concerns are valid, operators and regulators are doing everything they can to de-risk this method that has unlocked a great resource around the nation.
To get more information about Range’s frac fluid recipe read their Hydraulic Fracturing document or check out a Well Record and Completion Report example on their website. To learn more about Marcellus Shale environmental information visit the Marcellus Shale Regulatory, Environmental Info folder in the Marcellus Unconventional Updates in DI’s DNA.
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