water fracking contaminationThe story of hydraulic fracturing–using high-pressure water, sand, and chemicals to obtain hard-to-reach natural gas and oil from rocks deep underground–appears to be here to stay for an indefinite time. Just a few days ago, the mainstream People Magazine covered the story of hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, in Pennsylvania, and, towards the end of January, The Calgary Herald newspaper published in Canada reported that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has announced the adoption of six best practices for hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells.

Here is an interesting FAQ on rivers, water, and fracking targeted towards the general public.

Although fracking has been used for decades, concerns continue over the possibility of operations contaminating groundwater and drinking water because the process uses many chemicals and millions of gallons of water under pressure in the process. A 2011 report to the U.S. Congress stated that companies have used up to 750 chemicals as additives for hydraulic fracturing between 2005 and 2009.

Hydraulic fracturing in the U.S. is essentially unregulated. The U.S. Congress exempted fracturing fluid from regulation in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005, thereby excluding it from the EPA jurisdiction. However, the EPA announced in June 2011 that it will examine claims of water pollution related to hydraulic fracturing in several U.S. states. Texas and California are also proposing fracking regulations including having companies disclose their fracking locations, chemicals used, and the amount of water pumped.

In the meantime, customers, including water authorities, testing service companies, and fracking water processing facilities, have begun testing for bromide and sulfate, markers for groundwater salt contamination.

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We offer several highly sensitive solutions for this environmental work. For example, our Reagent-Free Ion Chromatography (RFIC) systems provide the required sensitivity for the marker ions bromide and sulfate. For groundwater analysis, our IC systems are being used with our carbonate eluent anion-exchange column (Thermo Scientific Dionex IonPac AS22 column) under isocratic conditions where bromide and sulfate concentrations are at ppm levels. This method is being used by a water authority for monitoring bromide in a local river near a fracking site.

For well-bore fluid, a method is in development using the Thermo Scientific Dionex ICS-2100 system and the Thermo Scientific Dionex IonPac AS19 hydroxide-selective anion-exchange column, originally designed for analysis of trace anions in drinking water and meets the performance requirements of EPA Methods 300.0 and 300.1.

An alternative to eluent generation, the RFIC systems also incorporate eluent regeneration (ER) for consistency and ease of operation for applications dedicated to the analysis of anions like bromide or sulfate in samples with low to moderate-concentration matrices. These systems use a suppressor to regenerate returning eluent, allowing a single preparation of eluent to be used for up to four weeks.

If you have questions about systems, methods, or analytes in hydraulic fracturing, you can comment below this post, or you can also email us at envreport@dionex.com.