Halogens in oil and gas production-associated wastewater.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Jennifer Harkness1, Nathaniel R Warner2, Gary S. Dwyer1, William Mitch3 and Avner Vengosh1, (1)Duke University, Durham, NC, United States, (2)Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, United States, (3)Stanford University, Los Altos Hills, CA, United States
Elevated chloride and bromide in oil and gas wastewaters that are released to the environment are one of the major environmental risks in areas impacted by shale gas development [Olmstead et al.,2013]. In addition to direct contamination of streams, the potential for formation of highly toxic disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water in utilities located downstream from disposal sites poses a serious risk to human health. Here we report on the occurrence of iodide in oil and gas wastewater. We conducted systematic measurements of chloride, bromide, and iodide in (1) produced waters from conventional oil and gas wells from the Appalachian Basin; (2) hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids from unconventional Marcellus and Fayetteville shale gas, (3) effluents from a shale gas spill site in West Virginia; (4) effluents of oil and gas wastewater disposed to surface water from three brine treatment facilities in western Pennsylvania; and (5) surface waters downstream from the brine treatment facilities. Iodide concentration was measured by isotope dilution-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, which allowed for a more accurate measurement of iodide in a salt-rich matrix. Iodide in both conventional and unconventional oil and gas produced and flowback waters varied from 1 mg/L to 55 mg/L, with no systematic enrichment in hydraulic fracturing fluids. The similarity in iodide content between the unconventional Marcellus flowback waters and the conventional Appalachian produced waters clearly indicate that the hydraulic fracturing process does not induce additional iodide and the iodide content is related to natural variations in the host formations. Our data show that effluents from the brine treatment facilities have elevated iodide (mean = 20.9±1 mg/L) compared to local surface waters (0.03± 0.1 mg/L). These results indicate that iodide, in addition to chloride and bromide in wastewater from oil and gas production, poses an additional risk to downstream surface water quality and drinking water utilities given the potential of formation of iodate-DBPs in drinking water.

Olmstead, S.M. et al. (2013). Shale gas development impacts on surface water quality in Pennsylvania, PNAS, 110, 4962-4967.