Effects of high pressure and temperature conditions on the chemical fate of flowback water related chemicals

Ann-Hélène Faber, Andrea M Brunner, Mariska Schimmel, Paul P Schot, Pim de Voogt, Annemarie van Wezel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Environmental risk assessment is generally based on atmospheric conditions for the modelling of chemical fate after entering the environment. However, during hydraulic fracturing, chemicals may be released deep underground. This study therefore focuses on the effects of high pressure and high temperature conditions on chemicals in flowback water to determine whether current environmental fate models need to be adapted in the context of downhole activities. Crushed shale and flowback water were mixed and exposed to different temperature (25-100 °C) and pressure (1-450 bar) conditions to investigate the effects they have on chemical fate. Samples were analysed using LC-HRMS based non-target screening. The results show that both high temperature and pressure conditions can impact the chemical fate of hydraulic fracturing related chemicals by increasing or decreasing concentrations via processes of transformation, sorption, degradation and/or dissolution. Furthermore, the degree and direction of change is chemical specific. The change is lower or equal to a factor of five, but for a few individual compounds the degree of change can exceed this factor of five. This suggests that environmental fate models based on surface conditions may be used for an approximation of chemical fate under downhole conditions by applying an additional factor of five to account for these uncertainties. More accurate insight into chemical fate under downhole conditions may be gained by studying a fluid of known chemical composition and an increased variability in temperature and pressure conditions including concentration, salinity and pH as variables.

Original languageEnglish
Article number163888
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2023


  • Downhole conditions
  • Environmental fate
  • Flowback water
  • Risk assessment
  • Shale


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