Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 407, Issue 21, pp 6417–6428 | Cite as

Analysis of hydraulic fracturing additives by LC/Q-TOF-MS

  • Imma FerrerEmail author
  • E. Michael Thurman
Research Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry in Food and Environmental Analysis


The chemical additives used in fracturing fluids can be used as tracers of water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing operations. For this purpose, a complete chemical characterization is necessary using advanced analytical techniques. Liquid chromatography coupled with quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC/Q-TOF-MS) was used to identify chemical additives present in flowback and produced waters. Accurate mass measurements of main ions and fragments were used to characterize the major components of fracking fluids. Sodium adducts turned out to be the main molecular adduct ions detected for some additives due to oxygen-rich structures. Among the classes of chemical components analyzed by mass spectrometry include gels (guar gum), biocides (glutaraldehyde and alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride), and surfactants (cocamidopropyl dimethylamines, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaines, and cocamidopropyl derivatives). The capabilities of accurate mass and MS-MS fragmentation are explored for the unequivocal identification of these compounds. A special emphasis is given to the mass spectrometry elucidation approaches used to identify a major class of hydraulic fracturing compounds, surfactants.


Hydraulic fracturing Fracking Environmental High resolution Time-of-flight mass spectrometry Flowback waters Produced waters 



We would like to thank Dr. James Rosenblum and Dr. Yaal Lester for providing the flowback and produced water samples shown in Figs. 3 and 6, respectively. The samples were obtained through the AirWaterGas Sustainability Research Network, funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CBET-1240584. We also thank Agilent Technologies for instrument support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Environmental Mass SpectrometryUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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