Aerobic biodegradation of organic compounds in hydraulic fracturing fluids
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- Kekacs, D., Drollette, B.D., Brooker, M. et al. Biodegradation (2015) 26: 271. doi:10.1007/s10532-015-9733-6
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Little is known of the attenuation of chemical mixtures created for hydraulic fracturing within the natural environment. A synthetic hydraulic fracturing fluid was developed from disclosed industry formulas and produced for laboratory experiments using commercial additives in use by Marcellus shale field crews. The experiments employed an internationally accepted standard method (OECD 301A) to evaluate aerobic biodegradation potential of the fluid mixture by monitoring the removal of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from an aqueous solution by activated sludge and lake water microbial consortia for two substrate concentrations and four salinities. Microbial degradation removed from 57 % to more than 90 % of added DOC within 6.5 days, with higher removal efficiency at more dilute concentrations and little difference in overall removal extent between sludge and lake microbe treatments. The alcohols isopropanol and octanol were degraded to levels below detection limits while the solvent acetone accumulated in biological treatments through time. Salinity concentrations of 40 g/L or more completely inhibited degradation during the first 6.5 days of incubation with the synthetic hydraulic fracturing fluid even though communities were pre-acclimated to salt. Initially diverse microbial communities became dominated by 16S rRNA sequences affiliated with Pseudomonas and other Pseudomonadaceae after incubation with the synthetic fracturing fluid, taxa which may be involved in acetone production. These data expand our understanding of constraints on the biodegradation potential of organic compounds in hydraulic fracturing fluids under aerobic conditions in the event that they are accidentally released to surface waters and shallow soils.