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Chemical Analysis of Wastewater from Unconventional Drilling Operations

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The University of Texas at Arlington, 700 Planetarium Place, Arlington, TX 76019, USA
Affiliate of Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation, The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX 76019, USA
Inform Environmental, LLC, 6060 N. Central Expressway Suite 500, Dallas, TX 75206, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Academic Editor: Say-Leong Ong
Water 2015, 7(4), 1568-1579;
Received: 6 February 2015 / Revised: 3 April 2015 / Accepted: 8 April 2015 / Published: 15 April 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Quality Control and Management)
PDF [367 KB, uploaded 9 June 2015]


Trillions of liters of wastewater from oil and gas extraction are generated annually in the US. The contribution from unconventional drilling operations (UDO), such as hydraulic fracturing, to this volume will likely continue to increase in the foreseeable future. The chemical content of wastewater from UDO varies with region, operator, and elapsed time after production begins. Detailed chemical analyses may be used to determine its content, select appropriate treatment options, and identify its source in cases of environmental contamination. In this study, one wastewater sample each from direct effluent, a disposal well, and a waste pit, all in West Texas, were analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy, high performance liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry, high performance ion chromatography, total organic carbon/total nitrogen analysis, and pH and conductivity analysis. Several compounds known to compose hydraulic fracturing fluid were detected among two of the wastewater samples including 2-butoxyethanol, alkyl amines, and cocamide diethanolamines, toluene, and o-xylene. Due both to its quantity and quality, proper management of wastewater from UDO will be essential. View Full-Text
Keywords: wastewater; hydraulic fracturing; analytical chemistry; chromatography; mass spectrometry; total organic carbon; unconventional drilling wastewater; hydraulic fracturing; analytical chemistry; chromatography; mass spectrometry; total organic carbon; unconventional drilling

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Thacker, J.B.; Carlton, D.D., Jr.; Hildenbrand, Z.L.; Kadjo, A.F.; Schug, K.A. Chemical Analysis of Wastewater from Unconventional Drilling Operations. Water 2015, 7, 1568-1579.

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