Drilling company releases 'fracking' chemicals
FINGER LAKES—Halliburton Co., one of the companies drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania, has released the list of chemicals used in the “fracturing” process.
The information is available online at http://www.halliburton.com/hydraulic fracturing. The chemicals are listed under “In-Focus: What’s in the Fluids?” The company lists the chemicals for its “water frac formulation,” “hybrid frac formulation,” and “foam frac formulation.” According to Halliburton, the foam frac is used when drilling in areas primarily composed of sandstone.
Some of the chemicals used repeatedly that are listed as hazardous are acetic acid, acetic anhydride, ammonium chloride, methanol, propargyl alcohol and crystalline silica. The company also explains that 99.5 percent of the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing are composed of water and sand.
The Web site also lists the relative potency of the chemicals, as compared to household objects. Halliburton says the formaldehyde in the “water frac formulation” isn’t enough to be listed as hazardous. According to the site, it is the same as used in “Liquid Detergent, School Glue, Hand Soap.” Halliburton says almost all of the chemicals are at the same concentration as many household chemicals and products.
Jerry P. Gordan Jr., manager for Laboratory Safety Environmental Health and Safety at Cornell University, said what really matters in the concentration of the chemicals.
“For example, vinegar used in salad dressing is five percent acetic acid, sodium chloride is table salt, guar gum is commonly used in numerous food products, crystalline silica, quartz is sand, isopropanol is rubbing alcohol, the sweet orange oil—terpenes is the ingredient found in many orange-based cleaners, etc.,” he said about the chemicals listed as hazardous.
If a chemical is hazardous or not, the site says so based on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). According to Halliburton, the MSDS is required by the Hazard Communication Standard as set forth by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
According to one MSDS, for a composite made up of acetic anhydride and acetic acid it is not deadly. The hazard overview says it “May cause eye, skin, and respiratory burns. May be harmful if swallowed. Combustible. Reacts violently with water.” However, the data sheets do not always say what happens if chemicals are accidentally released in the environment. Procedures say to contain any spill if it happens.