Natural Gas Residual Fluids: Sources, Endpoints, and Organic Chemical Composition after Centralized Waste Treatment in Pennsylvania

  • Getzinger G
  • O'Connor M
  • Hoelzer K
 et al. 
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Volumes of natural gas extraction-derived wastewaters have increased sharply over the past decade, but the ultimate fate of those waste streams is poorly characterized. Here, we sought to (a) quantify natural gas residual fluid sources and endpoints to bound the scope of potential waste stream impacts and (b) describe the organic pollutants discharged to surface waters following treatment, a route of likely ecological exposure. Our findings indicate that centralized waste treatment facilities (CWTF) received 9.5% (8.5 × 10(8) L) of natural gas residual fluids in 2013, with some facilities discharging all effluent to surface waters. In dry months, discharged water volumes were on the order of the receiving body flows for some plants, indicating that surface waters can become waste-dominated in summer. As disclosed organic compounds used in high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) vary greatly in physicochemical properties, we deployed a suite of analytical techniques to characterize CWTF effluents, covering 90.5% of disclosed compounds. Results revealed that, of nearly 1000 disclosed organic compounds used in HVHF, only petroleum distillates and alcohol polyethoxylates were present. Few analytes targeted by regulatory agencies (e.g., benzene or toluene) were observed, highlighting the need for expanded and improved monitoring efforts at CWTFs.

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  • Gordon J. Getzinger

  • Megan P. O'Connor

  • Kathrin Hoelzer

  • Brian D. Drollette

  • Osman Karatum

  • Marc A. Deshusses

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