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On Hydraulic Fracturing

January 14, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 2

As an engineer/researcher/inventor working in the upstream petroleum industry, I am pleased to see articles about the oil and gas business like “Cleaner Fracking” (C&EN, Oct. 15, 2012, page 13). These articles help general audiences understand the critical role the petroleum industry plays in society, as well as the challenges we are facing and trying to resolve.

Therefore, it’s important for the information in these articles to be as accurate and representative as possible. For example, the table showing a “Fracking Recipe” shows the chemical composition of the friction reducer as “petroleum distillate, hydrotreated light.”

Although it is true that the distillate can be used in a friction reducer, the functional chemical in a friction reducer is typically polyacrylamide and/or derivatives (see, for example, “Hydraulic Fracturing 101” by George King, Journal of Petroleum Technology, April 2012). The polyacrylamide can be in the form of dry powder or carried (suspended) in liquid such as petroleum distillate or mineral oil.

Leiming Li
Sugar Land, Texas

“Cleaner Fracking” states that “biocides are generally the most toxic additive used in fracturing fluids and limit the uses of recovered water.” But a footnote to the table “Fracking Recipe” makes clear that biocides are among the “additional proprietary ingredients not listed in material safety data sheet.” This exemption is permitted by various federal laws and amendments.

So my questions are the following: How can we evaluate dangers and risks when we are kept in the dark? And is the American Chemical Society willing to lobby for changes in the law to allow the transparency so badly needed for scientific study and evaluation to go forward in this area?

Michael Mage
Bethesda, Md.



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