Types of Contaminants
Contaminants found in hydraulic fracturing flowback and wastewaters include anions (link to webinar), cations (link to application note), metals (link to webinar), and fracking chemicals. Specifically, bromide (link to application note pdf) from the deep subsurface can impact drinking water supplies during the water disinfection process, resulting in bromate and halogenated organic compounds. In addition, excess barium and strontium (link to application note PDF) can cause scaling within pipes, resulting in restricted water flow and increased cost. The anions, cations, barium and strontium can be analyzed using reagent-free ion chromatography and suppressed conductivity detection.For more information, see this application note on ICP-OES and metals analysis (link to pdf).
The EPA report focuses on the organic compounds present in fracfocus (link to website), a repository for chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing that is now mandatory in many states. However, due to 1) complexity, 2) variable use, and 3) low concentration, organic contaminants are most likely not suitable candidates for indicators of hydraulic fracturing impacts. For this reason, researchers have focused on metals and, more specifically, isotope ratios for carbon and hydrogen from methane, and/or ratios of strontium and thorium isotopes (link to article).
Though the EPA report states that hydraulic fracturing impacts are not widespread, we should not forget that spills will most likely occur, as in any industrial process. This makes analysis a local issue, especially considering flowback waters in open pits, spills, transportation and disposal leaks. Serious local impacts will inevitably occur.
Check out our Environmental Community, a wonderful resource that is totally dedicated to our Environmental and IC customers and features the latest on-demand webinars, videos, application notes, and more. Also visit the resources below:
- Excellent overview of hydraulic fracturing flowback and wastewater contaminants (link to pdf)
- Learn about all of the aspects of hydraulic fracturing (link to information page)