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Sci Total Environ. 2015 Apr 15;512-513:637-644. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.01.043. Epub 2015 Feb 3.

Characterization of hydraulic fracturing flowback water in Colorado: implications for water treatment.

Author information

1
Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado, UCB 428, Boulder, CO 80309, United States.
2
Center for Environmental Mass Spectrometry, University of Colorado, UCB 428, Boulder, CO 80309, United States.
3
US Geological Survey, 3215 Marine Street, Boulder, CO, 80303, United States.
4
Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado, UCB 428, Boulder, CO 80309, United States. Electronic address: karl.linden@colorado.edu.

Abstract

A suite of analytical tools was applied to thoroughly analyze the chemical composition of an oil/gas well flowback water from the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) basin in Colorado, and the water quality data was translated to propose effective treatment solutions tailored to specific reuse goals. Analysis included bulk quality parameters, trace organic and inorganic constituents, and organic matter characterization. The flowback sample contained salts (TDS=22,500 mg/L), metals (e.g., iron at 81.4 mg/L) and high concentration of dissolved organic matter (DOC=590 mgC/L). The organic matter comprised fracturing fluid additives such as surfactants (e.g., linear alkyl ethoxylates) and high levels of acetic acid (an additives' degradation product), indicating the anthropogenic impact on this wastewater. Based on the water quality results and preliminary treatability tests, the removal of suspended solids and iron by aeration/precipitation (and/or filtration) followed by disinfection was identified as appropriate for flowback recycling in future fracturing operations. In addition to these treatments, a biological treatment (to remove dissolved organic matter) followed by reverse osmosis desalination was determined to be necessary to attain water quality standards appropriate for other water reuse options (e.g., crop irrigation). The study provides a framework for evaluating site-specific hydraulic fracturing wastewaters, proposing a suite of analytical methods for characterization, and a process for guiding the choice of a tailored treatment approach.

KEYWORDS:

Denver–Julesburg basin; Flowback; Fracking; Hydraulic fracturing; Water quality; Water reuse; Water treatment

PMID:
25658325
DOI:
10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.01.043
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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