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Organic chemical characterization and mass balance of a hydraulically fractured well: From fracturing fluid to produced water over 405 days

November 1, 2017

A long-term field study (405 days) of a hydraulically fractured well from the Niobrara Formation in the Denver-Julesburg Basin was completed. Characterization of organic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and their changes through time, from the preinjected fracturing fluid to the produced water, was conducted. The characterization consisted of a mass balance by dissolved organic carbon (DOC), volatile organic analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, and nonvolatile organic analysis by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. DOC decreased from 1500 mg/L in initial flowback to 200 mg/L in the final produced water. Only ∼11% of the injected DOC returned by the end of the study, with this 11% representing a maximum fraction returned since the formation itself contributes DOC. Furthermore, the majority of returning DOC was of the hydrophilic fraction (60–85%). Volatile organic compound analysis revealed substantial concentrations of individual BTEX compounds (0.1–11 mg/L) over the 405-day study. Nonvolatile organic compounds identified were polyethylene glycols (PEGs), polypropylene glycols (PPG), linear alkyl-ethoxylates, and triisopropanolamine (TIPA). The distribution of PEGs, PPGs, and TIPA and their ubiquitous presence in our samples and the literature illustrate their potential as organic tracers for treatment operations or in the event of an environmental spill.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Organic chemical characterization and mass balance of a hydraulically fractured well: From fracturing fluid to produced water over 405 days
DOI 10.1021/acs.est.7b03362
Authors James Rosenblum, E. Michael Thurman, Imma Ferrer, George R. Aiken, Karl G. Linden
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Index ID 70196515
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Central Branch

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