Report: Walnut hulls, instant coffee, and carcinogens all found in frac fluid

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce has released its study of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, and it reports that energy companies have injected instant coffee, walnut hulls, and the highly toxic cancer-causing benzene into the ground as they drill for natural gas. The Times Herald-Record and the Daily Freeman have more.

From the report's executive summary:

Some of the components used in the hydraulic fracturing products were common and generally harmless, such as salt and citric acid. Some were unexpected, such as instant coffee and walnut hulls. And some were extremely toxic, such as benzene and lead.

The report found that the most common chemical used in hydraulic fracturing is methanol, a "hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act." Other common components were isopropyl alcohol, 2-butoxyethanol, and ethylene glycol.

The report states that multiple human carcinogens have been used in the fracking process:

Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2)regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were components of more than 650 different products used in hydraulic fracturing. The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – appeared in 60 of the hydraulic fracturing products used between 2005 and 2009.

Each BTEX compound is a regulated contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act and a hazardous air pollutant under theClean Air Act. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five year period.

Also, worryingly, the Committee's researchers found that sometimes energy companies don't really know what they're putting in the ground:

In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to provide the Committee with a complete chemical makeup of the hydraulic fracturing fluids they used. Between 2005 and 2009, the companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret. Committee staff requested that these companies disclose this proprietary information. Although some companies did provide information about these proprietary fluids, in most cases the companies stated that they did not have access to proprietary information about products they purchased “off the shelf” from chemical suppliers. In these cases, the companies are injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify.

Read the full report below, from the Scribd account of the Daily Freeman:

Hydraulic Fracturing Report 4.18.11