Fracturing Fluid

  • The injected fracturing fluid (or fracking fluid) is typically more than 99.5% water and sand plus a very small amount of chemicals
  • Typically, the chemicals are used to improve the transportation of sand, prevent the growth of bacteria, reduce mineral blockages and prevent well corrosion over time
  • The additives are not unique to the oil and gas industry and are found in many household products, such as toothpaste, baked goods, ice cream, food additives, detergents and soap
  • Fracturing fluid is highly regulated and is not a health risk

What is fracturing fluid made of?

There’s a common misconception that the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing are highly toxic and made up of a secret list of ingredients that the industry won’t reveal.

While it’s a convenient claim to make, it’s simply not true.

On average, more than 99.5% of the solution is water and sand, with some additives used to ensure that the fluid is viscous.

Typically, the chemicals are used to improve the transportation of sand, prevent the growth of bacteria, reduce mineral blockages and prevent well corrosion over time.

The additives are not unique to the oil and gas industry and are found in many household products, such as toothpaste, baked goods, ice cream, food additives, detergents and soap.

In Western Australia, for example, regulations require petroleum companies to publicly disclose all chemicals and additives introduced to a well or formation during hydraulic fracture stimulation. Chemicals and additives introduced to a well or formation are publicly listed on the department’s website.

Still not convinced? The Chemical Abstracts Service of the American Chemical Society is the international authority for chemical information.

They’ve published a comprehensive list of chemicals and compounds used in fracturing fluids.

  • In Australia, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) chemicals cannot be used in fracking fluids
  • BTEX chemicals may occur in natural water sources, so in some instances trace levels of these chemicals may be detected prior to or following hydraulic fracturing
  • They can also be detected in industrial and irrigation waters that farmers and pastoralists use all the time

The role of proppant during hydraulic fracturing

  • The water used during fracking operations contains ‘proppants’, such as sand or tiny ceramic beads, which are used to hold the fissures open and improve the flow of gas or oil
  • As the pressure on the rock formation reduces, the fissures close under the pressure of rock above, but are held open by the proppants remaining within the fissures
  • These tiny fissures now provide large surface areas on the rock formation for gas to flow through, as well as providing flow paths for the gas to reach the well bore while the proppants remain behind in the rock formation

More information

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