California’s Fracking Fluids

The Chemical Recipe

August 12, 2015

California’s Fracking Fluids: Comparison with EPA’s national data

In March 2015, the U.S. EPA released a report that analyzed data from the national FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. The report was a preliminary step in the major EPA study that recently concluded that fracking had indeed contaminated some sources of drinking water across the country. It analyzed disclosures from 20 states for fracking jobs from early 2011 to February 2013 and identified a total of 692 distinct chemicals that had been used in oil and gas fracking operations (EPA 2015).

The EPA report shows that there are significant differences between the fracking chemicals used most often nationwide and those used most often in California. (See Table 2 for a complete comparison.) Among them:

  • Methanol was the top chemical used nationally, reported in nearly three-fourths of oil fracking jobs but in only about 20 percent of California jobs. Methanol is listed as a Hazardous Air Pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act.
  • Petroleum distillates (hydrotreated light) were the second most commonly reported chemical nationally and the sixth most reported in California.
  • Crystalline silica was reported in only half of the national disclosures but in all of the California reports.
  • Hydrochloric acid was reported in nearly 58 percent of national disclosures but in only 5 percent of California reports. Hydrochloric acid is also a federally listed Hazardous Air Pollutant.
  • Heavy aromatic naphtha, a neurotoxin known to cause cancer in lab animals, was reported in nearly 22 percent of national reports but in less than 1 percent of California disclosures.
  • Naphthalene, a known carcinogen, was 10 EWG.org California’s Fracking Fluids: The Chemical Recipe reported in almost 18 percent of disclosures nationally, compared to about 2 percent of those in California.
  • Glutaraldehyde was the most common biocide nationally, reported in about a third of fracking jobs. It was not reported at all in California, where CMIT and MIT were the most commonly reported biocides.
  • 2-BE, a glycol ether surfactant found in tap water in Pennsylvania, was reported in about one-fifth of the national disclosures but fewer than 5 percent of the California reports.

On average, fewer chemical additives were reported per fracking job nationally than in California. The median7 number of added chemicals per fracking job was 19 in California and 14 nationwide for both oil and gas jobs. EWG’s analysis of the California disclosure data showed that the most common number of chemicals per fracking job was 28.

Table 2. The top 40 fracking chemicals used in California, Dec. 2013-Feb. 2015, compared to national data from U.S. EPA’s March 2015 report, “Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Data from the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry 1.0.”

Rank Chemical Abstract Service Number (CAS #) Chemical Reported Percent of California frack jobs reporting chemical Percent of frack jobs reporting chemical in EPA national analysis (all oil wells)
1 14808-60-7 crystalline silica, quartz 100% 49.4%
2 91053-39-3 diatomaceous earth, calcined 100% 15.3%
3 9000-30-0 guar gum 97.0% 52.4%
4 7727-54-0 ammonium persulfate (per- oxydisulfuric acid, diammonium salt) 94.9% 59.6%
5 64742-55-8 petroleum distillate, hydrotreated light paraffinic (blend 2) 89.6% 7.9%
6 64742-47-8 petroleum distillates, hydrotreated light (blend 1) 89.6% 60.8%
7 14464-46-1 crystalline silica, cristobalite 88.0% 5.0%
8 2682-20-4 2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one 87.8% 5.7%
9 7786-30-3 magnesium chloride 87.8% 5.7%
10 10377-60-3 magnesium nitrate 87.8% 5.8%
11 7647-14-5 sodium chloride 87.0% 21.2%
12 26172-55-4 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin- 3-one 86.8% 5.7%
13 15821-83-7 2-butoxy-1-propanol 86.3% NR
14 9043-30-5 isotridecanol, ethoxylated 86.3% 6.1%
15 107-21-1 ethylene glycol 86.0% 59.3%
16 1310-73-2 sodium hydroxide 85.5% 49.5%
17 1303-96-4 sodium tetraborate decahydrate 81.2% 10.7%
18 9025-56-3 hemicellulase enzyme concentrate 77.9% 6.5%
19 6419-19-8 nitrilotris (methylene phosphonic acid) 68.6% 3.6%
20 13598-36-2 phosphonic acid 68.6% 10.7%
21 5131-66-8 propylene glycol butyl ether (1-butoxy-2-propanol) 64.3% 4.0%
22 138879-94-4 oxyalkylated amine quat (1,2-eth- anediaminium, n, n’-bis[2-[bis(2- hydroxyethyl)methylammonio] ethyl]-n,n’bis(2-hydroxyethyl)-n,n’- dimethyl-,tetrachloride) 63.5% 3.2%
23 67-56-1 methanol 21.3% 71.8%
24 56-81-5 glycerol 18.4% 5.8%
25 55636-09-4

2-hydroxytrimethylene,bis(trimethylammonium) dichloride

18.1% NR
26 77-92-9 citric acid 15.1% 19.0%
27 14807-96-6 magnesium silicate hydrate (talc) 11.9% 3.3%
28 9002-84-0 poly(tetrafluoroethylene) 11.9% NR
29 25038-72-6 vinylidene chloride/methylacrylate copolymer 11.9% 2.8%
30 67-63-0 isopropanol 11.4% 46.2%
31 9003-35-4 phenol formaldehyde polymer (phenolic resin) 11.3% 17.9%
32 63-42-3 lactose 10.4% NR
33 73049-73-7 tryptone 10.3% NR
34 8013-01-2 yeast extract 10.3% NR
35 7631-86-9 silica, amorphous - fumed 9.7% NR
36 69-53-4 ampicillin 9.4% NR
37 37288-54-3 enzyme 9.4% NR
38 64-19-7 acetic acid 9.1% 26.6%
39 31726-34-8 polyethylene glycol monohexyl ether 9.0% 3.2%
40 104-76-7 2-ethyl hexanol (2-ethylhexan-1-ol) 8.8% 4.6%

Source: Environmental Working Group, from DOGGR 2015 and EPA 2015.
NR = Not Reported.

 

7 The value that half the records were above and half below.