Common hydraulic fracturing fluid additives alter the structure and function of anaerobic microbial communities

Applied and Environmental Microbiology
By: , and 

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Abstract

The development of unconventional oil and gas (UOG) resources results in the production of large volumes of wastewater containing a complex mixture of hydraulic fracturing chemical additives and components from the formation. The release of these wastewaters into the environment poses potential risks that are poorly understood. Microbial communities in stream sediments form the base of the food chain and may serve as sentinels for changes in stream health. Iron-reducing organisms have been shown to play a role in the biodegradation of a wide range of organic compounds, and so to evaluate their response to UOG wastewater, we enriched anaerobic microbial communities from sediments collected upstream (background) and downstream (impacted) of an UOG wastewater injection disposal facility in the presence of hydraulic fracturing fluid (HFF) additives: guar gum, ethylene glycol, and two biocides, 2,2-dibromo-3-nitrilopropionamide (DBNPA) and bronopol (C3H6BrNO4). Iron reduction was significantly inhibited early in the incubations with the addition of biocides, whereas amendment with guar gum and ethylene glycol stimulated iron reduction relative to levels in the unamended controls. Changes in the microbial community structure were observed across all treatments, indicating the potential for even small amounts of UOG wastewater components to influence natural microbial processes. The microbial community structure differed between enrichments with background and impacted sediments, suggesting that impacted sediments may have been preconditioned by exposure to wastewater. These experiments demonstrated the potential for biocides to significantly decrease iron reduction rates immediately following a spill and demonstrated how microbial communities previously exposed to UOG wastewater may be more resilient to additional spills.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Common hydraulic fracturing fluid additives alter the structure and function of anaerobic microbial communities
Series title Applied and Environmental Microbiology
DOI 10.1128/AEM.02729-17
Volume 84
Issue 8
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher American Society for Microbiology
Contributing office(s) Advanced Research Computing (ARC), National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description e02729-17; 16 p.
First page 1
Last page 16