Gov Study Confirms Toxic Chemicals Pumped into Wells During 'Fracking'

benzene chemical structure

Between 2005 and 2009, oil and natural gas companies operating in 14 states injected hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic and/or carcinogenic chemicals into natural gas wells, according to a recent investigation conducted by three House Democrats* and made public on Saturday.

This estimated volume is at least an order of magnitude greater than was cited in a preliminary report back in February, which estimated just over 30 million gallons pumped underground.

The pressurized pumping of large quantities of waste materials, minerals and chemical liquids (some of which are toxic) deep underground during drilling is part of the process of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘hydrofracking’ (or just ‘fracking’) that aids the fracturing of bedrock, making it easier to extract/release trapped oil and natural gas.

The industry technique has earned great criticism of late by some politicians and most environmental groups because of its reported use of diesel fuel (which contains benzene, a carcinogen) and other B.T.E.X. chemicals (benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene) which they fear may be contaminating local water tables through rock leakage, unstable wells, and/or ground seepage from well over-flow.

Quoting from today’s NY Times article”

[The report] “also found that 14 of the nation’s most active hydraulic fracturing companies used 866 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products — not including water. More than 650 of these products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or are listed as hazardous air pollutants.”

An industry critic of the study’s results claims that the methodology used by the committee was flawed in its compiling of total product volumes and not the actual volumes of the chemicals used or their concentrations.

This industry criticism is deceiving, however, insofar as companies have refused to disclose the chemical mixtures used and their average concentrations. In fact, industry concentrations may actually be greater than the government estimates; a 2010 Environmental Working Group study found benzene levels more than 90 times greater than what is found in ordinary diesel fuel.

Further, the report reveals that many of these hydrofracking companies simply do not know all the chemicals that are being pumped into these wells (currently numbering in the thousands).

To add even more uncertainty and concern to the mix, waste water from this process that isn’t lost to seepage or over-flow is sent to treatment plants that are not equipped to remove the toxins from the water — and the water is then discharged into rivers (comment: just flushed away like magic). Some of this hydraulic waste has been found to be radioactive.

*The report was written by Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Diana DeGette of Colorado.

Read the full NY Times article: Chemical Were Injected Into Wells, Report Says, by Ian Urbina

Top Diagram: (benzene – molecular structure) Ephemeronium

Of Further Interest:

Here is the New York State list of chemical additives used in fracturing (extracted from

CAS Number↓ Chemical Constituent
2634-33-5 1,2 Benzisothiazolin-2-one / 1,2-benzisothiazolin-3-one
95-63-6 1,2,4 trimethylbenzene
123-91-1 1,4-Dioxane
3452-07-1 1-eicosene
629-73-2 1-hexadecene
112-88-9 1-octadecene
1120-36-1 1-tetradecene
10222-01-2 2,2 Dibromo-3-nitrilopropionamide, a biocide
27776-21-2 2,2′-azobis-{2-(imidazlin-2-yl)propane}-dihydrochloride
73003-80-2 2,2-Dobromomalonamide
15214-89-8 2-Acrylamido-2-methylpropane sulphonic acid sodium salt polymer
46830-22-2 2-acryloyloxyethyl(benzyl)dimethylammonium chloride
52-51-7 2-Bromo-2-nitro-1,3-propanediol
111-76-2 2-Butoxy ethanol
1113-55-9 2-Dibromo-3-Nitriloprionamide (2-Monobromo-3-nitriilopropionamide)
104-76-7 2-Ethyl Hexanol
67-63-0 2-Propanol / Isopropyl Alcohol / Isopropanol / Propan-2-ol
26062-79-3 2-Propen-1-aminium, N,N-dimethyl-N-2-propenyl-chloride, homopolymer
9003-03-6 2-propenoic acid, homopolymer, ammonium salt
25987-30-8 2-Propenoic acid, polymer with 2 p-propenamide, sodium salt / Copolymer of acrylamide and sodium acrylate
71050-62-9 2-Propenoic acid, polymer with sodium phosphinate (1:1)
66019-18-9 2-propenoic acid, telomer with sodium hydrogen sulfite
107-19-7 2-Propyn-1-ol / Propargyl alcohol
51229-78-8 3,5,7-Triaza-1-azoniatricyclo[,7]decane, 1-(3-chloro-2-propenyl)-chloride,
115-19-5 3-methyl-1-butyn-3-ol
127087-87-0 4-Nonylphenol Polyethylene Glycol Ether Branched / Nonylphenol ethoxylated / Oxyalkylated Phenol
64-19-7 Acetic acid
68442-62-6 Acetic acid, hydroxy-, reaction products with triethanolamine
108-24-7 Acetic Anhydride
67-64-1 Acetone
79-06-1 Acrylamide

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