Fracking chemicals – EU developments by Nick Boley

As the possibility of large-scale commercial hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Europe edges closer, a  generic exposure scenario (GES) is being drawn up by the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), the European Oilfield Specialty Chemicals Association (Eosca) and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP). This has been discussed by the EU’s Competent Authorities for REACH and CLP (Caracal) recently.

There is currently no requirement under REACH for dossiers for substances used in fracking operations to specifically include references to their use in fracking.

The industry group is also preparing a background document which will describe, in simple terms, the main steps in fracking, and will include current available data on potential emissions and exposure from each step. This will include a generic list of fracking additives, stating their type or function.

It will be important, going forward, to ensure that these additives, and all potentially harmful substances, used in fracking operations, can be measured accurately and down to environmentally sensitive low concentrations, in order that the consequences of this technology can be monitored and the environment and public safety appropriately protected as a result.



Amendment to Sulphur in Liquid Fuels Regulations published by Nick Boley

The UK Government has published the Sulphur Content of Liquid Fuels (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 1975/2014), which amends the Sulphur Content of Liquid Fuels (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 (SI 79/2007).

This amendment, which had previously been enacted in Northern Ireland by the Sulphur Content of Liquid Fuels (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014 (SR 147), restricts the sulphur content of heavy fuel oils to 1 % by mass, and the sulphur content of gas oils to 0.1 % by mass. It also deletes the previous schedule 8 “technical requirements for sample analysis”. Schedule 6 is amended as follows: “The reference method adopted for determining the sulphur content of fuels sampled pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be defined by ISO method 8754 (2003) or EN ISO 14596 (2007).”

ISO 8754:2003 covers the determination of the sulphur content of fuels by energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, and has a working range of 0.03 % to 5% sulphur by mass.

EN ISO 14596:2007  covers the determination of the sulphur content of fuels and fuel additives by wavelength-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry and has a working range of 0.001 % to 2.5 % sulphur by mass.

New English Regulations on Authorised Fuels in Smoke Control Area by Nick Boley

The UK Government has published new regulations concerning which fuels are authorised for use in smoke control areas. The Smoke Control Areas (Authorised Fuels) (England) Regulations 2014.

These regulations list 67 products which are authorised to be used in smoke control areas. These products comprise briquettes and firelogs mainly, all of which have specifications as to their composition. Compositional data includes – across the wide product range – information on anthracite content, petroleum coke content, as well as levels of binders (e.g. phosphoric acid) and sulphur levels.

These products all require accurate validated methods to be used in order to verify their composition in order to confirm compliance with these new Regulations.

European Commission Produces Recommendation on Fracking by Nick Boley

The European Commission has published a Recommendation (COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION of 22 January 2014 on minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (2014/70/EU)) which covers high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

The Recommendation highlights a number of issues which concern the use of chemicals in the fracking process, and the resulting environmental concerns. It makes clear the Member States need ensure that any chemicals used in the fracking process must comply with both REACH and Biocides Product Regulations.

There will be a need to monitor water quality where fracking takes place, in order to ascertain whether any chemicals used in the process have found their way into the water at significant levels. This will add to the workload of environmental and water company laboratories, and accredited methods will need to be worked up for any potential contaminants which are outside the current scope of laboratories water quality testing.

CIA publishes fact sheet on fracking by Nick Boley
November 11, 2013, 17:17
Filed under: Energy, Environment/Ecology | Tags: ,

The Chemical Industries Association (CIA) have published a fact sheet on the subject of fracking. This fact sheet is designed to answer some of the points that have been widely made about the potential downsides of fracking, and is written in a matter-of-fact and dispassionate way.

One of the more pertinent points about fracking, from an environmental legislation and measurement standpoint, is about the dangers of chemicals used in the rock fracturing process getting into underground aquifers and then, potentially into the domestic drinking water supply.

The fact sheet explains clearly that the environmental regulator (the Environment Agency in England and Wales, and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency in Scotland) will need to approve all chemicals used in this procedure on a case-by-case basis. All chemicals used must comply with European chemicals legislation including REACH and Biocidal Products Directive. It will be interesting to see if and when any fracking licenses are granted, a testing regime is instituted to monitor groundwater and drinking water for the presence of these chemicals.

Oil and Gas Industry release information about fracking chemicals by Nick Boley
June 26, 2013, 10:09
Filed under: Energy, Environment/Ecology | Tags: , ,

The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) have published information relating to the chemicals used during the fracking process to liberate shale gas. Shale gas is seen by many as an important component of the energy mix in many Western countries, including the UK in the short to medium term, but environmentalists have voiced concerns over the chemicals used in the fracking process which could potentially find their way into public water supplies.

The information published by OGP currently relates to wells in Poland, where shale gas extraction has commenced, but gives a good indication of the types of chemicals which could be used in the UK. For example, the factsheet for the well at Strzeszewo lists the composition of the fracking liquid used in the process. Many of these are very common chemicals at very low concentrations and of limited harm, but they do present a potential challenge to analytical chemists to monitor for their presence in drinking water supplies which could potentially be affected by fracking in the vicinity of wells.


MEPs demand more robust rules on fracking by Nick Boley
November 22, 2012, 15:11
Filed under: Energy, Environment/Ecology, EU Information | Tags: ,

MEPs have stated they see there is a need for more robust rules to deal with the many issues posed by the development across the EU on fracking.

A resolution from the Parliament’s Energy Commission stated  that each member state has the right to decide on whether to exploit shale gas. The resolution, prepared by Niki Tzavela (EFD, EL), was adopted with 492 votes in favour, 129 against and 13 abstentions.

However, MEPs considered that a “robust regulatory regime” is needed for all shale gas activities, including hydraulic fracturing. They believe that environmentally-friendly processes and best available techniques  be used to achieve the highest safety standards, and particularly to require companies to disclose which chemicals are used, in order to comply with EU legislation.