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Biocides in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids: A Critical Review of Their Usage, Mobility, Degradation, and Toxicity

Author:
Kahrilas, Genevieve A., Blotevogel, Jens, Stewart, Philip S., Borch, Thomas
Source:
Environmental Science & Technology 2015 v.49 no.1 pp. 16-32
ISSN:
1520-5851
Subject:
bacteria, biocides, byproducts, corrosion, disinfection, ecosystems, energy, environmental assessment, equipment, glutaraldehyde, human health, hydrogen sulfide, organic matter, quaternary ammonium compounds, risk assessment, shale, soil, temperature, toxicity
Abstract:
Biocides are critical components of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) fluids used for unconventional shale gas development. Bacteria may cause bioclogging and inhibit gas extraction, produce toxic hydrogen sulfide, and induce corrosion leading to downhole equipment failure. The use of biocides such as glutaraldehyde and quaternary ammonium compounds has spurred a public concern and debate among regulators regarding the impact of inadvertent releases into the environment on ecosystem and human health. This work provides a critical review of the potential fate and toxicity of biocides used in hydraulic fracturing operations. We identified the following physicochemical and toxicological aspects as well as knowledge gaps that should be considered when selecting biocides: (1) uncharged species will dominate in the aqueous phase and be subject to degradation and transport whereas charged species will sorb to soils and be less bioavailable; (2) many biocides are short-lived or degradable through abiotic and biotic processes, but some may transform into more toxic or persistent compounds; (3) understanding of biocides’ fate under downhole conditions (high pressure, temperature, and salt and organic matter concentrations) is limited; (4) several biocidal alternatives exist, but high cost, high energy demands, and/or formation of disinfection byproducts limits their use. This review may serve as a guide for environmental risk assessment and identification of microbial control strategies to help develop a sustainable path for managing hydraulic fracturing fluids.
Agid:
5358076