As hydraulic fracturing or fracking has burgeoned, so have speculations about its environmental impact. Both citizens and government officials have questioned whether fracking could compromise our drinking water sources.
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Worldwide demand for additional energy sources has driven the growth of shale oil and gas extraction technology. But as hydraulic fracturing (HF) or fracking has burgeoned, so has speculation about its environmental impact. The chemicals used in the process can include hazardous compounds and the wastewater it produces may contain high levels of salts, metals, and occasional traces of radioactive isotopes from the subsurface environment.
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When high pressure is used to crack the shale during the hydraulic fracturing process, wastewater flows to the surface as flowback or produced water. Download this white paper to learn how is the wastewater handled and how the contaminants in the wastewater are analyzed.
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Bromide (Br-), strontium (Sr2+) and barium (Ba2+) are signatures of the flowback waters. Bromide is of particular concern because it can lead to increased formation of brominated disinfection byproducts during drinking water disinfection. Download this white paper to learn how bromide is analyzed.
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High levels of dissolved solids, such as salts leached from bedrock, can be a challenge when analyzing fracking flowback solutions. Direct analysis of these solutions can often suppress key analytes; thus, sample dilution is often necessary to achieve accurate measurement of trace analytes. Additionally, high concentrations may fall outside the linear calibration range for a particular analyte. Because ICP-OES and ICP-MS perform within a wide dynamic range, they are the preferred tools for analysis of multiple metals.
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Anions and organic acids are found in fracking flowback waters. They can alter the viscosity of the fracturing water, thereby affecting the hydraulic fracturing process. They may also harm the quality of surface and groundwaters - potential sources for drinking water. Ion chromatography is a powerful analytical tool that can be used to check for these contaminants in water.
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On Jan. 14, 2015, the US EPA has outlined the plan to regulate methane and smog-forming volatile organic compounds emissions from the oil and gas industry. This is the first time that emission of methane, the major component of natural gas, is regulated. The EPA plans to issue the proposed rule later this summer and make a final rule in 2016.
The major unconventional technology for natural gas production is hydraulic fracturing. During the process, methane is produced by releasing to the air or dissolved in the fracking water. The following resources provide detection methods for methane dissolved in water.