, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 271–287 | Cite as

Aerobic biodegradation of organic compounds in hydraulic fracturing fluids

  • Daniel Kekacs
  • Brian D. Drollette
  • Michael Brooker
  • Desiree L. Plata
  • Paula J. MouserEmail author
Original Paper


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.

Graphical Abstract


Hydraulic fracturing fluid Organic additives Acetone Shale energy development Aerobic biodegradation Pseudomonas 



This research was funded by NSF CBET Award #1247338 to P.J.M and NSF CBET Award #1336326 to P.J.M and D.P. We are grateful for donations of chemical additives from the manufacturers for our synthetic fracturing fluid. We greatly appreciate assistance from Michael Wilkins and Michael Johnson for cell counting and thank Alum Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility for providing activated sludge.

Supplementary material

10532_2015_9733_MOESM1_ESM.xls (152 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 151 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Kekacs
    • 1
  • Brian D. Drollette
    • 2
  • Michael Brooker
    • 1
  • Desiree L. Plata
    • 2
  • Paula J. Mouser
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic EngineeringThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Chemical and Environmental EngineeringYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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