Hazardous Chemicals Go Unregulated in Routine Oil and Gas Operations
California and more than two dozen other states require oil and gas producers to disclose the chemicals they use during hydraulic fracturing activities, enabling scientific and public scrutiny of the environmental and human health hazards these substances may pose. But all existing disclosure regulations cover chemical use only in hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and, in California, two other types of well-stimulation treatments. Many of the same chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing go undisclosed when they are used in numerous routine, unregulated oil- and gas-field activities such as the drilling, cleaning and maintenance of wells, according to a study published in PLOS ONE today. The study, conducted by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of the Pacific and the California-based energy science and policy institute PSE Healthy Energy, is the first published research to investigate chemicals used in unregulated routine oil- and gas-field activities, including the overlap between chemicals used in both regulated and unregulated activities.
Analyzing publicly available data of chemical use in oil and gas production operations in the Los Angeles Basin, researchers found that the number of the chemicals used for routine activities is as high or higher than the number used for hydraulic fracturing, and those chemicals are used frequently and in high quantities. Further, the disclosure data showed that the same chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing were also used in more than half of recorded routine activities, which are unregulated. For example, they found common use of biocides, a class of hazardous chemicals that includes formaldehyde, and acidizing agents including hydrofluoric acid, in both regulated well-stimulation activities and unregulated routine activities. These findings have major implications for chemical disclosure policies and risk assessments of oil and gas development in California and across the nation, the researchers concluded.
"Policies that focus exclusively on hydraulic fracturing or well stimulation miss a huge swath of chemical usage that poses environmental and human health hazards," said Seth B.C. Shonkoff, executive director of PSE and corresponding author on the study. "Especially as water produced by oil and gas development is increasingly used to replenish aquifers, irrigate agriculture, water livestock and increase stream flow around the country, we need to know, more than ever, what's in it. Policies that govern chemical use in oil and gas development should apply to all uses - none of these known hazardous substances should be getting a free pass," he said.
Read more at: PSE Healthy Energy