Exploring matrix effects and quantifying organic additives in hydraulic fracturing associated fluids using liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry
Hydraulic fracturing (HF) operations utilize millions of gallons of water amended with chemical additives including biocides, corrosion inhibitors, and surfactants. Fluids injected into the subsurface return to the surface as wastewaters, which contain a complex mixture of additives, transformation products, and geogenic chemical constituents. Quantitative analytical methods are needed to evaluate wastewater disposal alternatives or to conduct adequate exposure assessments. However, our narrow understanding of how matrix effects change the ionization efficiency of target analytes limits the quantitative analysis of polar to semi-polar HF additives by means of liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS). To address this limitation, we explored the ways in which matrix chemistry influences the ionization of seventeen priority HF additives with a modified standard addition approach. We then used the data to quantify HF additives in HF-associated fluids. Our results demonstrate that HF additives generally exhibit suppressed ionization in HF-associated fluids, though HF additives that predominantly form sodiated adducts exhibit significantly enhanced ionization in produced water samples, which is largely the result of adduct shifting. In a preliminary screening, we identified glutaraldehyde and 2-butoxyethanol along with homologues of benzalkonium chloride (ADBAC), polyethylene glycol (PEG), and polypropylene glycol (PPG) in HF-associated fluids. We then used matrix recovery factors to provide the first quantitative measurements of individual homologues of ADBAC, PEG, and PPG in HF-associated fluids ranging from mg L−1 levels in hydraulic fracturing fluid to low μg L−1 levels in PW samples. Our approach is generalizable across sample types and shale formations and yields important data to evaluate wastewater disposal alternatives or implement exposure assessments.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts Recent HOT Articles and The environmental geochemistry and biology of hydraulic fracturing