DENVER — An energy company executive's sip of fracking fluid at an industry conference this month has been called a demonstration by some and a stunt by others, but it's bringing attention to new recipes for hydraulic fracturing fluids that in the past have contained chemicals used for antifreeze or bleaching hair.
In a speech at the conference presented by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Halliburton Co. CEO Dave Lesar talked about addressing public concerns about hydraulic fracturing, which extracts natural gas by blasting a mix of water, chemicals and sand underground.
He raised a container of Halliburton's new fracking fluid made from materials sourced from the food industry, then called a fellow executive to demonstrate how safe it was by drinking it, two attendees said.
What the person drank apparently was Clean
“I thought if this stuff was so benign, why wouldn't the CEO drink it himself?,” said Environmental Defense Fund's Mark Brownstein, who saw the demonstration. “My second thought, more seriously, is on the one hand, I'm pleased to see Halliburton is taking steps to remove toxic chemicals from hydraulic fracturing fluid. ... I also do in some ways think the stunt is very much indicative of the problem the industry has in assuring the public that they are in fact taking public concerns
About 90 percent of wells in the U.S. are fracked, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Each component of fracking fluid does something different, such as killing bacteria or preventing corrosion. As fracturing evolves, engineers have found substances besides synthetic chemicals to perform the functions, said Colorado State University environmental engineering professor Ken Carlson.
“The thing I took away is the industry is stepping up to plate and taking these concerns seriously,” Carlson said.
Companies have resisted disclosing exact recipes for fracking fluid for competitive reasons. Those who post disclosures on FracFocus, a public online registry, can exclude some chemicals. Halliburton's website says CleanStim's ingredients include enzyme, exthoxylated sugar-based fatty acid ester, inorganic and organic acids and sulfonated alcohol.