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Research shows biocides used in fracking are ineffective and harmful to people and the environment... so why is Oil & Gas still using them?


(NaturalNews) Americans are currently enjoying low oil and gasoline prices, brought about largely by the maturation of a single technology: hydraulic fracturing, a process whereby oil and natural gas is forcefully extracted from rock, using pressurized liquids. And, though the process has been around since 1947, its widening use has prompted a number of questions among environmentalists worried that it could be damaging to the earth.

Their biggest concerns are about the liquids used by oil companies to extract the oil and gas. Most of the pressurized liquid consists of water, but it also contains chemicals and, among such chemicals, biocides.

As noted by the University of Colorado State – which has just completed a study on the compounds – biocides are chemical substances that are used mostly in industrial processes, but are also found in several household products like bleach. When used in hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" for short, they are added to kill bacteria that can corrode well casings, limit the effectiveness of the extraction process, and produce a highly toxic hydrogen sulfide gas.

Researchers from Colorado State examined more than 200 research papers, various studies and other literature to evaluate current knowledge of biocides and how they can leach into the environment, whether they would degrade or persist once there, and if they or their degradation byproducts pose any significant health risks to humans and the surrounding ecosystems. In the process of analyzing studies, the research team found several areas where more research is quickly needed, while also identifying the good and bad of potential alternatives to biocides.

Key findings

The team's report, "Biocides in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids: A Critical Review of Their Usage, Mobility, Degradation, and Toxicity," was published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

"We were trying to figure out if there is sufficient information available for an accurate environmental impact assessment of this important class of chemical compounds, and identify where the major knowledge gaps are," said Jens Blotevogel, a research assistant professor of environmental engineering, and one of the paper's lead authors.

The team produced several key findings, among them:

-- None of the 16 major biocides that are employed in fracking are specific to the industry, and they are all used in other industrial processes and commercial products;

-- Of those 16, nine have been reported to have chronic toxicity effects involving developmental, mutagenic, reproductive and carcinogenic elements, among others;

-- Three of the seven not shown to have toxic effects may transform into intermediate products with the potential to become toxic;

-- The most current data appear to show that surface spills are the most common cause of environmental contamination from fracking fluids;

-- Little is known about "transformation, sorption and transport of fracking chemicals once injected into" wells.

'Didn't even know what they were allowing'

Others are looking for alternatives to biocides in fracking. According to DS Bovia, a research firm, while the common thinking is that biocides are useful in maintaining the integrity of rigs used to extract oil and gas, that may not be the case at all. The firm notes that recent findings indicate that biocides do nothing to prevent the formation of hydrogen sulfide, and that instead, geochemical reactions may be causing toxic gas.

Then there are critics of fracking who say that biocides and other chemicals have not yet been properly vetted by industry or the appropriate federal agencies.

As reported by RT, Kristen Monsell, a lawyer at the US-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), says that U.S. officials "didn't even know what they were allowing" when giving companies permission to conduct fracking operations offshore and dump billions of gallons of chemicals into oceans.

"They were permitting fracking offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and [...] the agencies didn't know it was happening, they didn't even know what they were allowing," she told RT recently.

As for the on-shore environment, some environmentalists believe that fracking chemicals are making their way into water tables, which is why many Americans are making the move to purchase water filtration systems.






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