Hydraulic fracturing panel focuses on use of greener chemicals in oil and gas extraction

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2013 — Oil industry leaders met today to discuss the current state of hydraulic fracturing and to begin exploring ways to produce greener and more sustainable chemicals for use in the process. The discussion was part of the 17th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Bethesda, Md. The conference, which regularly attracts scientific leaders from around the world, is sponsored by the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI).

“To come up with new ideas, you need to know where you are in the development of green chemistry,” said Danny Durham, symposium organizer and manager of Global Upstream Chemicals at Apache Corp., an oil and gas exploration and production company based in Houston. “We see this as an opportunity to gather information and provide education about the current state of green chemical development. Hopefully, what will come out of this symposium are ideas from the chemical and academic worlds that can help create newer, greener chemicals that are improvements over what we have been using.”

Hydraulic fracturing assists in producing oil and gas from deep within the earth using high-pressure fluids and a small amount of chemical additives, Durham said. The fluids fracture shale formations, which release the oil and gas. Some of the fluid, which is usually water or gel, and the chemicals used in the process are extracted back out of the ground along with the oil and gas and are recycled or sold.

“The industry has been using specialty chemical additives in fracturing fluids for more than 40 years. The risk associated with their use in the actual fracturing process is minimal,” Durham said. Of greater concern is transporting the chemicals to the site.

“What is preferred is chemical additives that, if they were to spill, would cause less environmental damage than the ones that have been used in the past,” Durham said. “There have been significant strides made, and there are more strides that can be and are being made.”

The ACS GCI is exploring with industry representatives the possibility of forming an ACS GCI Industrial Roundtable focused on green chemistry and engineering opportunities within the industries that use hydraulic fracturing. The Institute has three existing Industrial Roundtables, which represent partnerships between ACS GCI and industry-related corporations united by a shared vision to integrate green chemistry and engineering principles into their respective industries.

The creation of a hydraulic fracturing roundtable would be an encouraging step, said Richard Liroff, executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, a group of investment organizations working to reduce production and use of potentially toxic chemicals by business and industry.

“It would be terrific if this panel led to launching of a project where the GCI and industry scientists work together to develop safer alternatives,” Liroff said


The ACS Green Chemistry Institute® is an organization focused on catalyzing and enabling the implementation of green chemistry and engineering throughout the global chemical enterprise. ACS GCI operates industrial roundtables; conducts conferences, seminars and training; maintains an international network of 26 green chemistry chapters; and with its partner NSF International, led the effort to establish the first consensus standard for greener chemical products and process information in the United States.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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