Unconventional Oil and Gas Development: Predicting Impacts on Air and Water Through Detailed Chemical Analysis

Dr. Desiree Plata, PhD, Yale University, Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering


29 November 2016 at 11:30

Location: BSB B136

Unconventional Oil and Gas Development: Predicting Impacts on Air and Water Through Detailed Chemical Analysis

 

 

High volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) wastewaters contain authigenic hydrophobic organic compounds, industrially sourced additives, and transformation products thereof, whereas oil sands (OS) extracts contain primarily naturally-occuring hydrophobic organic compounds.  Identification of the unanticipated components and their formation pathways is important for (a) predicting impacts on human and ecological health associated with HVHF and OS waste, (b) understanding and engineering time-dependent changes in well characteristics from an industrial performance perspective, and (c) illuminating previously undescribed chemistries. Here, we characterized HVHF flowback water and OS extraction products via comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled with time-of-flight mass spectrometry in a small subset US and Canadian operations (for HVHF and OS operations, respectively). Several halogenated organic byproducts were identified in HVHF fluids, putatively via reaction with shale brines that yielded chlorinated, brominated, and iodated materials, including halomethanes. Using a novel high pressure and temperature reactor, we are uncovering the important transformation processes that give rise to these chemicals. OS extraction products contain no surprising compounds (i.e., they are comprised primarily of geogenic hydrocarbons), but several of these are volatile and give rise to local secondary organic aerosol formation (on the order of that seen for major urban centers).  Ultimately, these analyses should enable improved HVHF and OS technologies, water treatment, and a priori risk assessment to minimize the environmental impact of unconventional oil and gas extraction technologies on human health and the environment, while simultaneously enabling economic growth from this important sector.

 


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