Research Summary: Organic Contaminants in Portland Cement

by | Jul 26, 2016

organic compounds in portland cement

Glycol

Glycol is commonly used as for airplane deicing at commercial airports and as antifreeze in automobiles and other internal combustion engines. Glycol is also used as a chemical additive during natural gas and petroleum well stimulation.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) conducted a groundwater investigation in Pavillion, Wyoming to evaluate whether drinking water wells used by Pavillion residents were affected by hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells located nearby. The USEPA used concentrations of glycol as a fingerprint to conclude domestic water wells were contaminated by hydraulic fracturing fluids.
To test the USEPA’s hypothesis that glycol is an indicator of hydraulic fracturing chemical migration, IES’s Don Siegel in collaboration with others, evaluated other potential sources of glycol. They tested glycol concentrations in portland cement, a cement used in drinking water and natural gas well construction including the wells constructed by the USEPA during their investigation.

Organic Contaminants in Portland Cement

Dr. Siegel and his collaborators found that glycol is present in portland cement and that it leaches from the cement at concentrations in the thousands of parts per billion.
Therefore, the existence of glycol in groundwater near oil and gas wells a priori does not indicate contamination by hydraulic fracturing.
They conclude that additional chemical fingerprints (besides glycol) are needed to demonstrate contamination from hydraulic fracturing and to avoid false positives, claiming a contaminant source that does not exist.
The results were published in Groundwater Monitoring & Remediation.

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