A recent presentation by the owner of UK fracker Cuadrilla reveals the company plans to inject tens of thousands of gallons of Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) into its frack sites in the UK.
The presentation – by AJ Lucas, 42% owner of Cuadrilla – reveal that Balcombe can expect sixteen thousand gallons of HCl to be pumped 800m under the village. Hydrochloric acid is typically used neat – its main function is to clean the tiny spaces between subsurface rocks at the start of the fracking process.
The presentation shows that of the fluids Cuadrilla intend to inject underground, 0.125% will be HCl (see p 21 of the presentation). A typical well uses 12.8 million gallons of fluids (based on 1.6 million gallons per frack and 8 fracks per site). For Balcombe this would mean a total of 16,000 gallons of pure hydrochloric acid forced into the ground.
The company likes to maintain that the fracking fluids it uses are found in everyday products.
What this obscures is the sheer quantity of chemicals used, usually without dilution.
Hydrochloric acid is indeed used in some household cleaning products. Yet a small city would be required to consume the same amount used by one frack site. The amount of HCl planned for release under Balcombe, for example, would top 80,000 bottles of Bonnyman’s Patio Cleaner (based on 5 litres per bottle, composed of 28% HCl, total 16,000 gallons).
Similarly the company plans to use a second chemical: polyacrylamide. Polyacrylamide is found in – amongst other things – shampoo. Yet even if polyacrylamide were the only constituent in shampoo, this would also equate to 80,000 bottles of shampoo under the village (8000 gallons of polyacrylamide, ten bottles of shampoo per gallon).
While this cornucopia of subsurface consumer goods provides an almost comical example of the process of hydraulic fracturing, the reality is more stark. The water usage planned for Balcombe equates to more than 12m gallons – or more than 24 Olympic swimming pools. At a time of water shortage both the pollution of underground sources and the asset stripping of surface water is highly irresponsible.