Editors’ Series: Environmental Forensic Investigation of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Used in Shale Gas Wells in the Eastern United States

This presentation was recorded on August 28, 2014.


Recently, there has been considerable interest in gas well drilling into the Marcellus shale in the Eastern United States using hydraulic fracturing techniques, but this is not without controversy. The gas-drilling companies claim to self-disclose their fracking fluid formulations, but the exact compositions are not revealed. As a result, if hydraulic fracturing caused some environmental contamination, it would not be easy to determine the source of the contamination. This results in potentially complex environmental forensics analytical method development and sample analysis to determine if a contamination event has occurred, and who the principal polluter may be.

This presentation will address the sampling, sample preparation, and analysis of hydraulic fracturing materials in an effort to develop an understanding of the chemical composition of post-fracking fluids so that source identification and source apportionment may be successful in the event of a release. Additionally, a better understanding of the chemical composition of these fluids may facilitate on-site or near-site bioremediation. Various sample preparation strategies will be discussed, and GC–TOF-MS and GCxGC–TOF-MS will be used as determinative techniques. Finally, data will be presented that may allow for the development of protocols to determine the composition of these fluids and, possibly, the source of any pollution events.

Frank L. Dorman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Penn State University

Laura Bush

Editorial Director
LCGC and Spectroscopy

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