ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

Cancel

Drilling Company Says It Will List Hazardous Chemicals Used in Fracking

Range Resources plans to disclose details of the chemicals it uses to drill for natural gas in Pennsylvania. Some believe that chemicals used in the drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing, are contaminating drinking water.

.

A drilling rig in Pennsylvania. (Wikimedia Commons)

One of the largest gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale has announced that it will disclose the chemicals it uses in its Pennsylvania wells. The company, Range Resources, said it will display the list on its website, giving regulators and landowners an account of the hazardous chemicals injected into each well.

Last month, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection made public a list of more than 80 chemicals used by the drilling industry. But the Range list, first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday night, goes a step further because it includes the volume, concentration and purpose of the chemicals.

Range's disclosure will help health specialists and regulators determine whether the drilling is polluting drinking-water supplies, said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney at Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm. But she said the list is just a first step, because it will include only chemicals that are deemed hazardous to workplace safety by federal authorities. She said it won't necessarily include chemicals that may harm aquatic ecosystems or drinking water.

"It does not by any stretch of the imagination cover what most people would consider to be hazardous," Goldberg said.

The drilling industry combines chemicals with water and sand and injects the mixture into wells to break apart shale and release natural gas, a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Drilling companies have been slow to disclose the chemicals they use, which sometimes include toxic chemicals such as toluene and naphthalene, which is listed by the EPA as a possible carcinogen.

In September, Range CEO John Pinkerton joined another drilling executive in calling on his industry to release this information. The executives blamed the companies that produce the chemical mixes for preventing such disclosure out of proprietary concerns.

In recent years, landowners around the country have grown increasingly concerned that gas drilling is polluting their water, but scientists say it's difficult to determine the source of the pollution without knowing which chemicals are being injected into the earth. Drilling companies have stressed that the chemicals are highly diluted; Range said they account for only about 0.14 percent of the fracking fluid.

The exact percentage of chemicals used in each of Range's Pennsylvania wells will be available on the website, the company said, and each report will be posted within 30 days of a well's completion. A sample report (PDF) from the company shows the components of the fluid in a "typical Marcellus well." It lists four additives that contain a number of chemicals, including ethanol and glutaraldehyde, a toxic pesticide. Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said these four additives are what the company generally uses in its Marcellus wells.

That’s encouraging. Now if they would stop drilling in people’s properties and poisoning their water I could feel better.

Hmmmm… so what’s the catch?  Can’t be possible that a corporation will actually disclose info about its use of toxic chemicals to people who then might use it against them, is it…???

Rachel Carson would pose the question to natural gas consumers. “Are we willing to pay the price for imminently dangerous extraction methods if the cost includes the possibility of impairing public health?” Contaminated drinking water is not the only deleterious effect of fracking. Our willingness to gamble on fracking as well as other toxic chemically-intensive industrial processes is the real health hazard here.

Would one inform me as to why our EPA doesn’t already know not only the chemicals used but approximately how much of them will be used? Why aren’t these chemicals regulated already?

Another indication that the Federal Agency’s are ineffective at what they do or what they don’t do.

Robin Lawrence

July 15, 2010, 3:28 p.m.

Before we start thanking them for disclosing this information, read the 3rd paragraph. Sounds like they are only listing some of the ingredients…and not the ones that can ruin our water! If you go to http://www.rangeresources.com and click on the Hydraulic Fracturing fact sheet, the chart showing the amount of chemicals used makes it look not so bad, since they use an obscene amount of water. They love to point out that even though they use 4 MILLION GALLONS OF WATER, water is the most abundant molecule on the planet. Oh, well, just go ahead then. There is plenty more where that came from…NOT!  It’s just more of their propaganda. I wish they would stop insulting our intelligence.

Robin Lawrence

July 15, 2010, 3:53 p.m.

To pgillenw: Because these chemicals were exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, with the help of Dick Cheney. The only thing companies are specifically restricted from using in diesel fuel. Go to http://www.gaslandthemovie.com and watch Gasland on HBO. It is a great documentary about this topic.

To pgillenw: it is not the EPA’s fault.  VP Cheney got hydrofracking exempted from regulations about 6 years ago.  Probably because Halliburton pioneered the process of horizontal hydrofracking and developed fluids, Cheney knew that these toxic substances were not anything to worry about.

Clarissa Parker

July 16, 2010, 3:42 a.m.

Gee, sounds like a real convenient and cheap way to get rid of toxic liquid waste that otherwise would cost an arm and a leg to have to manifest and ship to an approved and licensed haz waste landfill.  Anybody care to explain how a toxic PESTICIDE is an essential ‘additive’ for a fracking process. No? I didn’t think so! If you believe anything a sleaze like Halliburton tells you, you might as well just shoot yourself in the head to save yourself from having to endure the extended clinical depression of dying slowly from a painful cancer or brain tumor.

Harvey,

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.  The issue with water contamination is from methane gas not fracking fluids.  I know, the issue in Dimock is from a shallow gas zone (not the shale) that flowed into the drinking water aquifer.  It had nothing to do with fracking. 

The only way any of these companies would disclose the dangerous chemicals in these fluids is if they are 100% sure that it wont come back to bite them where it matters, in their pocketbooks. 

Range’s decision to disclose the chemicals seems to be them putting their money where their mouth is.  They have said its impossible to make a frack from the shale to the water zone because its too far.  If true, they have nothing to fear by disclosing the chemicals.

JJ

Glutaraldehyde is not a “toxic” pesticide. Its a bactericide with an extremely low threshold of toxicity used in high concentrations (50%) in such nefarious applications as prosthetic limp sanitation, algae control in municipal water systems and cosmetics.

Considering how David Kopel absolutely destroyed Lustgarten’s prior distortions, I would have hoped Propublica would have been a bit more careful with its selective use of information.

Lindsay Groves

July 18, 2010, 10:17 a.m.

Gee, everybody is so short-term oriented! What about the long term, when these companies are owned by China or somebody in 20 years and the mystery chemicals appear at the far end of some yet-undiscovered fault, and make some unsuspecting well-water drinkers sick? Who will come up with the money to sue a huge multi-national then? The companies that polluted superfund site Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, NY, are mostly history-couldn’t possibly have the assets to really clean it up in a permanent way. The fish will never be edible. As an added bonus, it smells bad! And this is a small area close to the surface, nice and accessible! It’s not only unhealthy, it’s disgusting! How do you measure permanent damage like that done to a municipality?

In addition to “GASLAND”, two older documentaries
that are highly recommended addressing this topic
are “SPLIT ESTATE” and “A LAND OUT OF TIME”.

Also, a good one by Dr. Theo Colborn—-free viewing on her website which is http://www.endocrinedisruption.com, which focuses on the health issues related to fracking.

“Not without a fight”

The data from the contamination from around the Oregon Township well pad operated by Chesapeake Appalachia (Robson Site) suggests that other drillers are adding Barium Chloride (to make the drilling fluid heavy). They give you Barium Sulphate if you have a GI tract X-Ray. I’m curious that the BaCl2 is not on the list.

There is a hint that they C-A were also using Diesel oil as well.

Way too much money for the could have’s or maybe’s-

DRILL BABY NY- DRILL

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Fracking

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

The Story So Far

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas.

More »

Get Updates

Stay on top of what we’re working on by subscribing to our email digest.

optional

Our Hottest Stories

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •