What chemicals are used?
Fracking involves pumping fluid underground to create tiny cracks in the target shale rock in order to release the gas trapped inside. The fluid is made up of mostly water, a small quantity of sand, and some chemicals.
Opponents of the process claim that fracking fluid contains "a lethal cocktail of 600 toxic chemicals" but that just isn't true.
Here in the UK, the various environment agencies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland must approve all the chemicals used in fracking fluid, and they must be assessed as being non-hazardous to groundwater.
For instance, Cuadrilla, the company operating in Lancashire, has proposed to use fracking fluid with the following composition:
Water and Sand 99.95%
Polyacrylamide is added to the fracking fluid as a friction reducer. Another common industrial use for it is in drinking water treatment.
In addition, the Environment Agency has approved the use of a dilute solution of Hydrochloric Acid (used in swimming pools) and a very weak solution of Glutaraldehyde (a disinfectant used to sterilise medical equipment, for example).
Third Energy, in North Yorkshire, lists the composition of its fracking fluid in its Hydraulic Fracture Plan. Again, the components have been specifically selected based on their non-hazardous properties and have been assessed by the Environment Agency as being non-hazardous to groundwater.
There only a handful of chemicals used (not 600), and they are all non-hazardous to groundwater too.