Influence of Concentration and Salinity on the Biodegradability of Organic Additives in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Paula J Mouser and Daniel Kekacs, The Ohio State Univ, Columbus, OH, United States
One of the risks associated with the use of hydraulic fracturing technologies for energy development is the potential release of hydraulic fracturing-related fluids into surface waters or shallow aquifers. Many of the organic additives used in hydraulic fracturing fluids are individually biodegradable, but little is know on how they will attenuate within a complex organic fluid in the natural environment. We developed a synthetic hydraulic fracturing fluid based on disclosed recipes used by Marcellus shale operators to evaluate the biodegradation potential of organic additives across a concentration (25 to 200 mg/L DOC) and salinity gradient (0 to 60 g/L) similar to Marcellus shale injected fluids. In aerobic aqueous solutions, microorganisms removed 91% of bulk DOC from low SFF solutions and 57% DOC in solutions having field-used SFF concentrations within 7 days. Under high SFF concentrations, salinity in excess of 20 g/L inhibited organic compound biodegradation for several weeks, after which time the majority (57% to 75%) of DOC remained in solution. After SFF amendment, the initially biodiverse lake or sludge microbial communities were quickly dominated (>79%) by Pseudomonas spp. Approximately 20% of added carbon was converted to biomass while the remainder was respired to CO2 or other metabolites. Two alcohols, isopropanol and octanol, together accounted for 2-4% of the initial DOC, with both compounds decreasing to below detection limits within 7 days. Alcohol degradation was associated with an increase in acetone at mg/L concentrations. These data help to constrain the biodegradation potential of organic additives in hydraulic fracturing fluids and guide our understanding of the microbial communities that may contribute to attenuation in surface waters.