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Alberta - May 8, 2017

Sometimes it’s a dirty job.

Last fall, the AER and Alberta Health kicked off a study to discover what substances are present during the “flowback” phase of hydraulic fracturing operations and whether they pose a risk to human health and the environment. The study involves collecting gas and aerosol samples during the flowback period, which are then sent to a lab for analysis.

The study’s sampling phase wrapped up recently on a mucky day at a wellsite near Drayton Valley. Here’s a look at how AER staff used high- and low-tech means to get the job done in the mud.

Whats in the flare
What’s in the flare? The site of the last of eight wells the AER sampled.
Makeshift solutions
Makeshift solutions: AER field inspectors, Stefan Bittner, Dean Thompson, and Barry Smith find creative ways to cope with the mud before the testing begins. Sometimes wooden pallets and cardboard are just what you need to get on solid ground.
Home away from home
Home away from home: AER staff take shelter to collect gas and aerosol samples from a pipeline running between the separator and the flare stack.
Inside testing tent
Inside the testing tent: AER field inspector, Dean Thompson, gets ready to collect samples and checks the sampling apparatus, which was designed and constructed specifically for this study.
Down to business
Down to business: AER field inspectors, Jeffrey MacInnis and Dean Thompson collecting samples. Samples are collected every three hours over the course of 12 to 15 hours and then sent to an accredited lab for analysis to determine the composition and concentrations of the substances in the flowback stream.
Just keep smiling
Just keep smiling: AER field inspector Barry Smith in good spirits despite the long day of getting stuck in the muck.
Teamwork: A few members of the AER’s flowback project team onsite on the last day of well testing. (Left to right: Dean Thompson, Michael Brown, Monica Hermary, Uche Ezike-Dennis, Jim Spangelo, Jeffrey MacInnis).

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Story Comments

Chris Morrow

Re: Sometimes it's a dirty job.

Curious what the results where?
I am designing a system that breaks down flow back fluids to an atomic level then reforming back in to clean water. your results are very important to me in my design, considering this system is in its design stage I would like to know if there are any other considerations that I have to add for control as well as containment by what ever the means.

We are beyond filtration and re-use of drill fluids, now break down and restructure of reusable drill fluids.

Resource Editor

Hi Chris. Thank you for your interest in this work. AER staff are still working on this study, so there are no results yet. We will be releasing a report when the study is complete.


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