Chemophobes Try To Restrict US OIL With “Frac-attack”

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By Kevin Roeten:

Oil Production Restricted

Only serious chemophobes warn against the supposed hidden dangers of “fracking”–the slang term for hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is creating fractures in rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, where it’s taken.

A percentage of people hate fracking, simply because of falsehoods from TV ads and other sources. One ad in particular, WLOS in Asheville, NC, denigrates three of the additives–silica, benzene, and formaldehyde—saying they are very hazardous.

They have pushed some people’s chemophobia past the limit. Silica is mostly sand makeup. Benzene is a natural constituent of crude oil, and one of many elementary petrochemicals. Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes, forest fires, oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.

In 1996, the installed capacity for production of formaldehyde was 8.7 million tons/yr. Commercial solutions of formaldehyde were formerly used as disinfectants, and for preservation of biological specimens (i.e., laboratory frogs). It is also commonly used in nail varnish and remover.

How Fracking Works

Hydraulic fracturing is used in geologic formations such as coal beds, shale plays, and previously drilled wells to stimulate production. Thirty-three states have oil and/or natural gas production, and more than 90 percent of all U.S. oil and natural gas wells use hydraulic fracturing.

Overall, the concentration of additives in most “slickwater” fracturing fluids is a very consistent 0.5-2 percent, with water making up 98-99.2 percent of all fracking fluids.

Fracking has enabled the U.S. to become the leading world’s oil producer. To date 72,735 fracking wells have been established and in use in the U.S.  The make‐up of fracturing fluid varies from one geologic basin or formation to another. Right now hundreds of thousands more wells are planned across the country over the next decade. A total of 72,735 fracturing sites are now located in the U.S. to date.

A 2004 EPA study of hydraulic fracturing in coal-bed methane wells concluded hydraulic fracturing “poses little or no threat” to drinking water, and no further study was necessary.

According to IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing won’t stop shale gas development.

Federal Guidelines 

In 1986, Congress enacted the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (dubbed as the FRAC Act), was introduced in 2011, and defines hydraulic fracturing as a federally regulated activity under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The act requires the energy industry to reveal chemical additives used in the hydraulic fracturing fluid. The gas industry opposes the legislation specifically because they are acutely aware of what the fear of chemophobia does to an uneducated public.

In the following list What Chemicals Are Used, one can find out all chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Typical fracture operations use very low concentrations of only 3-12 additive chemicals. If one thought all 51 chemicals are used in every fracking operation, their chemophobia fears would likely kick into overdrive. The make‐up of fracturing fluid varies from one geologic basin or formation to another.

In Why Chemicals Are Used, one can understand the uses of each of these small amounts of chemicals.

It should be understood all fracking locations meeting the threshold requirements provide all officials with inventories of every on-site chemicals where an MSDS exists.                                        

If one is truly concerned about fracking occurring at a close geographic location, they can always visit the website describing every additive in detail.

Of course, one could always bring up the old adage of the dangers of “Dihydrogen oxide – PubChem” one more time.

Funny how there’s always a chemophobe to overcome.


Kevin Roeten can be reached at                 

© Copyright by Kevin Roeten, 2014. All rights reserved.

Kevin Roeten
About Kevin Roeten 168 Articles
CHO's science editor Kevin Roeten is a former Chemical Engineer. He enjoys riding the third rail of journalism: politics and religion. As an orthodox Catholic, Roeten appreciates the juxtaposition of the two supposedly incompatible subjects.   Kevin is a Guest Columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times, and the Independent (Ohio), and writes for numerous blogs (Nolan Chart, Allvoices) and newspapers, including USA Today.   A collaborator in the book Americans on Politics, Policy, and Pop Culture (Jason Wright and Aaron Lee), he is also an amateur astronomer, and delves into scientific topics.   Kevin Roeten can be reached at