Halliburton exec sips fracking fluid

Posted: Aug 24, 2011

Written by

CATHERINE TSAI, Greenwire/The Associated Press
Fracking fluid

Halliburton executives are so confident about the safety of the chemicals used hydraulic fracturing that they're willing to drink it.

During a keynote lunch speech at a Colorado Oil and Gas Association meeting, Halliburton Co. CEO Dave Lesar held up a container of the fluid -- which was made from materials sourced from the food industry -- and called over a fellow executive who pretended to balk for a moment before swallowing a bit of the liquid.

The fluid the unnamed executive drank was apparently CleanStim. A Halliburton spokeswoman did not tell the Associated Press who the executive is or how he is faring now. Instead, she referred reporters to a website that says CleanStim is an inedible fluid containing enzyme, ethoxylated sugar-based fatty acid ester, inorganic and organic acid, inorganic salt, maltodextrin, organic ester, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, polysaccharide polymer and sulfonated alcohol.

The stunt comes as the oil and gas industry is embroiled in a bitter fight over the safety of drilling operations that use the fluid to break apart compact rock and release trapped hydrocarbons deep underground.

Many environmentalists concerned about the impact of the procedure on drinking water supplies have demanded the companies publicly disclose the ingredients of the fracturing fluids. Current federal laws do not require companies to do so, although some have chosen to do so voluntarily.

Each ingredient in fracking fluid serves a particular purpose, and over the years, companies have found ways to substitute synthetic chemicals for food industry materials that will perform the same functions, said Colorado State University environmental engineering professor Ken Carlson, who also attended the conference.

"The thing I took away is the industry is stepping up to plate and taking these concerns seriously," he said. "Halliburton is showing they can get the same economic benefits or close to that by putting a little effort into reformulating the fluids."

Carlson said Halliburton has taken a positive step in choosing ingredients that are safer for the environment and allow for less water use.

Still, Halliburton's latest stunt is drawing mixed reviews from the environmental community.

"I thought if this stuff was so benign, why wouldn't the CEO drink it himself? That frankly was my first thought," said Mark Brownstein, deputy director of the Environmental Defense Fund's energy program and a witness to 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 wonder why if they have this technology why it wouldn't become standard practice."

"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 seriously," Brownstein added. "Because quite honestly, a homeowner in Pennsylvania doesn't have the option of having an underling drink his water. He has to do it himself."

Brownstein said he remains skeptical of companies that claim their fracking mixtures are safe based solely on the fact that they are sourced from food-grade ingredients.

"Salt is a food-grade ingredient, but if you have too much salt in your well water, your well water is not usable," he said.


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