New Study: Toxicity of acidization fluids used in California oil exploration raise water contamination and public-safety concerns

Landmark Acidization Study Finds Oil Companies Using Dozens of
Hazardous Chemicals in California Wells Press Release by Centre for Biological Diversity, March 18, 2016

Oil companies use dozens of extremely hazardous chemicals to acidize wells in California, raising water contamination and public-safety concerns, according to a new study in the Journal of Toxicological and Environmental Chemistry.

The University of California-Los Angeles study, which has national significance because it seems to be the first ever to examine the toxicity of acidization chemicals, finds that almost 200 different chemicals have been used in the process, which is frequently employed in urban areas of Los Angeles County.

Researchers at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability found that at least 28 of these substances are F-graded hazardous chemicals — carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins, developmental toxins, endocrine disruptors or high acute toxicity chemicals. Hydrofluoric acid, for example, is acutely toxic, and exposure to fumes or very short-term contact with its liquid form can cause severe burns.

“This disturbing study is a wake-up call to every Californian living near an oil well,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The oil industry’s use of cancer-causing chemicals to acidize near homes and schools is an unacceptable threat to public health. State oil officials don’t regulate this dangerous practice, and we need strong action to protect our water and air from contamination risks.”

Acidizing is one of the most widely used processes for stimulating oil and gas wells, according to the American Petroleum Institute, but this appears to be the first scientific study ever to closely examine the toxicity of chemicals used in the process. California is the only state requiring public disclosure of acidizing chemicals, and that disclosure only began recently.

Researchers found more than 600 instances of acidizing in South and Central California from 2013 to 2015. Well records maintained by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources show that many acidized wells in California are within a few hundred feet of homes. [How many are frac’d near communities and homes in Canada?]

The study notes that acidizing chemicals can make up as much as 18 percent of the fluid used in these procedures. Each acidization, researchers note, can use as much as hundreds of thousands of pounds of some chemicals. In the case of highly toxic substances like hydrofluoric acid, large volumes could threaten public safety. “Transport and storage of such large quantities of HF prior to use are serious concerns,” researchers note.

Chemicals used in acidization threaten water supplies in many ways, the study says. Oil wastewater is routinely dumped into unlined pits in the Central Valley, and considerable quantities of this fluid have been injected into disposal wells operating in protected aquifers.

Spills can also contaminate water. Over a recent five-year period, the study notes, “423 surface spills at oil and gas fields in California released nearly 2.8 million gallons of wastewater, or an average of 6,500 gallons per incident.” [Emphasis added]

Toxicity of acidization fluids used in California oil exploration by Khadeeja Abdullaha, Timothy Malloya, Michael K. Stenstroma and I. H. (Mel) Suffeta, Received: 19 Nov 2015, Accepted: 26 Feb 2016, Published online: 17 Mar 2016, DOI:10.1080/02772248.2016.1160285, Journal of Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry

There has been considerable public interest regarding the toxicity of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, but little is known about its sister technique, acidizing. Little to no research has been done on what the chemicals of acidization are and what impact they could have on humans and the environment. This paper discusses the differences between three acidizing techniques (acid maintenance, matrix acidization, and acid fracturing) and quantifies the amounts of the chemicals used for each. Washington State’s Quick Chemical Assessment Tool is used to identify F-graded toxins, which are known carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins, developmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, or high acute toxicity chemicals.

The analysis of the present data shows that there have been over 600 instances of acidizing in urbanized Southern and Central California from April 2013 to August 2015. Although most of the chemicals of acidizing are similar to hydraulic fracturing, those used most frequently are different. There are close to 200 specific chemicals used in acidization, with at least 28 of them being F-graded hazardous chemicals. Some are used frequently in the range of 100–1000 kg per treatment, such as hydrofluoric acid, xylene, diethylene glycol, and ethyl benzene. Close to 90 more chemicals are identified using non-specific names as trade secrets or reported with no quantity. Unlike hydraulic fracturing the chemical concentrations in acidizing are high, ranging from 6% to 18%, and the waste returns can be highly acidic, in the range of pH 0–3. With this paper it is hoped that acidization becomes part of the larger discussion on concerns with oil exploration and be evaluated by appropriate authorities.

[Refer also to:

California: Carson introduces ban on fracking, acidizing of oil wells, and similar operations

September Drilling Communication Event Contaminated Drinking Water in Doddridge County, Proves drilling, perforating, acidizing, fracing, cavitation, servicing chemicals must be fully disclosed – without trade secrets – before any activity, not just frac chemicals long after fracing

Air Pollutants From Fracking, Acidizing Threaten Public Health, Report Says; Oil Companies Used More than 45 Million Pounds of Toxic Chemicals in Los Angeles Area Over Past Year

Fracking with Acid: Unknown Quantities Injected

Fracking’s More Dangerous Bedfellow: Acidizing; Halliburton Introduces Technology to Control Fracture Face Damage and Help Improve Production from Unconventional Reservoirs

Texas Judge John D. Rainey Gives Oil Giant Citgo Slap On the Wrist for 10 Years of Illegal Operations; Restitution to Poisoned Families: “Absolutely Nothing”

Los Angeles City Council Passes LA ‘Fracking’ Ban in 10 – 0 vote!

Beverly Hills City Council Set to Approve Ordinance to Ban Fracking and Acidizing anywhere in the city and under it

Oil and Gas industry officials decry proposed Los Angeles fracking, acidizing and wastewater injection well ban ]

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