Fracking doesn't use BTEX chemicals

Fracking uses cancer-causing BTEX chemicals. Or does it?


Groups and individuals that are against fracking in the UK will often claim that fracking fluid contains harmful BTEX chemicals - Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene.

These are not used in fracking fluid in the US as far as we can ascertain, and certainly won't be used here in the UK where the various environment agencies have to approve of anything being pumped underground and where regulations dictate any such substances must be non-hazardous to groundwater.

Where they have been encountered in the US is in the waste fluids produced from shale OIL wells in places like North Dakota.

BTEX chemicals are aromatic organic chemicals that are closely associated with oil. They are found naturally in oil wells, where they were formed as part of the process that transformed plant and marine matter into hydrocarbons hundreds of millions of years ago. 

They are not introduced into shale oil wells, they are taken out of them with the flowback wastewater and the target oil. 

You don't find them in "dry" shale gas wells because the rock in those reservoirs has been "cooked" for longer at high pressure and depth.

There's virtually no chance of being exposed to BTEX chemicals in the UK as a result of shale gas fracking activities.

However, if you drive a petrol or diesel car, then you will have inhaled BTEX chemicals every time you've ever refuelled because they are present in both of those liquid fuels. So, if you're really worried about BTEX chemicals, stop driving. 

Benzene itself is also used in rubber and plastics manufacture, dyes, detergents and even the synthetic fibres in cigarette filters. Toluene and Xylene are used as solvents in medicine manufacture. Ethylbenzene is used as a solvent in inks, paints and varnishes. Readers are advised to avoid these every-day products too if concerned about exposure to BTEX chemicals (especially cigarettes where the BTEX vapours are inhaled directly...)

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