Water pollution scare – 4,700 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled at Bradford County drilling site. Hydrochloric acid in fracking process.

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Drinking water pollution: 4,700 gallons of acid spill at Bradford County drilling site.

By Scott Detrow / State Impact / July 5, 2012 | 1:21 PM

There’s been another acci­dent at a north­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia drilling site: 4,700 gal­lons of hydrochlo­ric acid spilled at a Leroy Town­ship, Brad­ford County well pad oper­ated by Chief Oil and Gas on Wednesday

The spil comes two weeks after a thirty-foot methane geyser erupted near a Shell nat­ural gas well in nearby Union Town­ship, Tioga County.

Leroy is the same town­ship where a Chesa­peake Energy well suf­fered a 10,000-gallon frack­ing fluid blowout in 2011.…Click here to see where the well pad is located.

The Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion is plac­ing pre­lim­i­nary blame on a valve fail­ure. “The acid breached con­tain­ment and flowed off the well pad,” emailed DEP spokesman Dan Spadoni. “Some of the acid was col­lected in a sed­i­men­ta­tion pond, while the remain­der flowed through a field and some reached a small trib­u­tary to Towanda Creek caus­ing a minor fish kill. Dams were con­structed in the trib­u­tary before any acid reached Towanda Creek.”

In a state­ment, Chief spokes­woman Kristi Git­tins said the major­ity of the acid stayed on the well pad. She esti­mated up to 800 gal­lons flowed beyond the drilling site.

Can­ton Fire Chief Kim Jen­nings, who also helped lead the cleanup of the Shell methane geyser, says the spill is now under control.

What was hydrochlo­ric acid doing at the site? See next article by State Impact

Update: here’s a state­ment from Chief Oil and Gas:

  • An HCL release of appx 4,700 gal­lons occurred at appx 1pm on July 4 at the Yoder well site in Leroy Twp, Brad­ford Co. The release was dis­cov­ered by per­son­nel on site. DEP and the Brad­ford County EMS were noti­fied and response mea­sures were imple­mented.
  • It is impor­tant to note that the major­ity of the release, around 4,000 gal­lons was held to the ini­tial con­tain­ment area on the pad site. All pad sites are lined with a thick plas­tic so any inad­ver­tent release of flu­ids can be reme­died at the pad site.
  • Appx 700–800 gal­lons left the ini­tial con­tain­ment area and trav­eled into a sed­i­ment pond, which is designed as an addi­tional safety mea­sure to con­tain any runoff from the pad site. Appx 50 gal­lons left the sed­i­ment pond but appears to have remained local­ized to a small plunge pool next to the sed­i­ment pond.

The appro­pri­ate clean up crews were quickly dis­patched and are on site work­ing. Addi­tional berms of pre­cau­tion­ary pro­tec­tion were put in place as crews were neu­tral­iz­ing and vac­u­um­ing the pond. The release was quickly con­tained and cleanup is near com­ple­tion. After cleanup is com­plete, any needed reme­di­a­tion efforts will be deter­mined and that work will begin.

There were no drilling or fracking oper­a­tions tak­ing place at the time of the release. Landown­ers in the imme­di­ate area were noti­fied, how­ever there was never an issue of safety.

The release is under inves­ti­ga­tion by Frac Tech, Chief and the DEP, but it appears that a valve on the back of the tanker con­tain­ing the HCL was found par­tially open which resulted in the release.

There is no evi­dence that any runoff entered Towanda Creek and all pH read­ings have been nor­mal. DEP and the Fish and Boat Com­mis­sion have been on site and, along with Chief, are con­tin­u­ing to mon­i­tor. There were a few dead min­nows observed, local­ized in the small plunge pool, but there was no evi­dence of HCL and nor­mal pH read­ings and live fish were noted fur­ther down­stream in the trib­u­tary that leads to Towanda Creek. And again, no evi­dence of any runoff into Towanda Creek. Chief and DEP will con­tinue to take read­ings and monitor.

Pennsylvania water pollution news:

Drinking water pollution: Hydrochloric acid’s role in the fracking process.

By Scott Detrow / State Impact / July 6, 2012 | 3:30 PM

A bot­tle of hydrochlo­ric acid

After news broke that 4,700 gal­lons of hydrochlo­ric acid spilled at a Chief Oil and Gas drilling pad in Brad­ford County on Wednes­day, sev­eral read­ers emailed StateIm­pact Penn­syl­va­nia to ask why the cor­ro­sive agent was being stored at the site.

The answer: hydrochlo­ric acid plays a key role in the hydraulic frac­tur­ing process. After the nat­ural gas well’s hole is bored, drillers will pump thou­sands of gal­lons of water mixed with acid down into the well. The point, as drilling web­site Frac­Fo­cus explains, is to clear out cement debris left over from the drilling stage, and to help open up the under­ground shale fractures.

After the “acid stage” is com­plete, drillers inject slick­en­ing fluid and sand into the well, in order to flush the nat­ural gas out.

Chief had com­pleted frack­ing at its Leroy Town­ship Yoder well when the spill took place. A com­pany spokes­woman emails the acid was being stored on-site, wait­ing to be moved to another drilling location.

How is our drinking water polluted?

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[toggle title=” Hydrochloric acid defined: Wikipedia.
” height=”auto”] Hydrochloric acid

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hydrochloric acid

  • Muriatic acid[1]
  • Spirits of salt[2]


EC number 231-791-2
ATC code A09AB03,B05XA13


Appearance Colourless, transparent liquid


MSDS External MSDS
EU Index 017-002-01-X
R-phrases R34, R37
S-phrases (S1/2), S26, S45

Related compounds

Related compounds

Supplementary data page

Structure and
n, εr, etc.
Phase behaviour
Solid, liquid, gas
Spectral data UV, IR, NMR, MS

(verify) (what is: /?)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)

Infobox references

Hydrochloric acid is a clear, colourless solution of hydrogen chloride (HCl) in water. It is a highly corrosive, strong mineral acid with many industrial uses. Hydrochloric acid is found naturally in gastric acid.

Historically called muriatic acid, and spirits of salt, hydrochloric acid was produced from vitriol (sulfuric acid) and common salt. It first appeared during the Renaissance, and then it was used by chemists such as Glauber, Priestley and Davy in their scientific research.

With major production starting in the Industrial Revolution, hydrochloric acid is used in the chemical industry as a chemical reagent in the large-scale production of vinyl chloride for PVC plastic, and MDI/TDI for polyurethane. It has numerous smaller-scale applications, including household cleaning, production of gelatin and other food additives, descaling, and leather processing. About 20 million tonnes of hydrochloric acid are produced annually.


Hydrochloric acid was known to European alchemists as spirits of salt or acidum salis (salt acid). Both names are still used, especially in non-English languages, such as German: Salzsäure and Dutch: Zoutzuur. Gaseous HCl was called marine acid air. The old (pre-systematic) name muriatic acid has the same origin (muriatic means “pertaining to brine or salt”), and this name is still sometimes used.[1][3]


Aqua regia, a mixture consisting of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid, prepared by dissolving sal ammoniac in nitric acid, was described in the works of Pseudo-Geber, the 13th-century European alchemist.[4][5][6][7][8] Other references suggest that the first mention of aqua regia is in Byzantine manuscripts dating to the end of the thirteenth century.[9] The earliest suggested discovery of hydrochloric acid is attributed to the alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān (c. 800 AD).[10][11][12][13]

Free hydrochloric acid was first formally described in the 16th century by Libavius, who prepared it by heating salt in clay crucibles.[14] Other authors claim that pure hydrochloric acid was first discovered by the German benedictine monk Basil Valentine in the 15th century,[15] by heating common salt and green vitriol,[16] whereas others claim that there is no clear reference to the preparation of pure hydrochloric acid until the end of the sixteenth century.[9]

In the seventeenth century, Johann Rudolf Glauber from Karlstadt am Main, Germany used sodium chloride salt and sulfuric acid for the preparation of sodium sulfate in the Mannheim process, releasing hydrogen chloride gas. Joseph Priestley of Leeds, England prepared pure hydrogen chloride in 1772, and in 1818 Humphry Davy of Penzance, England proved that the chemical composition included hydrogen and chlorine.[6]

During the Industrial Revolution in Europe, demand for alkaline substances increased. A new industrial process by Nicolas Leblanc (Issoundun, France) enabled cheap large-scale production of sodium carbonate (soda ash). In this Leblanc process, common salt is converted to soda ash, using sulfuric acid, limestone, and coal, releasing hydrogen chloride as a by-product. Until the British Alkali Act 1863 and similar legislation in other countries, the excess HCl was vented to air. After the passage of the act, soda ash producers were obliged to absorb the waste gas in water, producing hydrochloric acid on an industrial scale.[6][17]

In the twentieth century, the Leblanc process was effectively replaced by the Solvay process without a hydrochloric acid by-product. Since hydrochloric acid was already fully settled as an important chemical in numerous applications, the commercial interest initiated other production methods, some of which are still used today. After the year 2000, hydrochloric acid is mostly made by absorbing by-product hydrogen chloride from industrial organic compounds production.[6][17][18]

Since 1988, hydrochloric acid has been listed as a Table II precursor under the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances because of its use in the production of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.[19]


Hydrogen chloride (HCl) is a monoprotic acid, which means it can dissociate (i.e., ionize) only once to give up one H+ ion (a single proton). In aqueous hydrochloric acid, the H+ joins a water molecule to form a hydronium ion, H3O+:[20][21]

HCl + H2O → H3O+ + Cl

The other ion formed is Cl, the chloride ion. Hydrochloric acid can therefore be used to prepare salts called chlorides, such as sodium chloride. Hydrochloric acid is a strong acid, since it is essentially completely dissociated in water.[20][21]

Monoprotic acids have one acid dissociation constant, Ka, which indicates the level of dissociation in water. For a strong acid like HCl, the Ka is large. Theoretical attempts to assign a Ka to HCl have been made.[22] When chloride salts such as NaCl are added to aqueous HCl they have practically no effect on pH, indicating that Cl is an exceedingly weak conjugate base and that HCl is fully dissociated in aqueous solution. For intermediate to strong solutions of hydrochloric acid, the assumption that H+ molarity (a unit of concentration) equals HCl molarity is excellent, agreeing to four significant digits.[20][21]

Of the six common strong mineral acids in chemistry, hydrochloric acid is the monoprotic acid least likely to undergo an interfering oxidation-reduction reaction. It is one of the least hazardous strong acids to handle; despite its acidity, it consists of the non-reactive and non-toxic chloride ion. Intermediate-strength hydrochloric acid solutions are quite stable upon storage, maintaining their concentrations over time. These attributes, plus the fact that it is available as a pure reagent, make hydrochloric acid an excellent acidifying reagent.

Hydrochloric acid is the preferred acid in titration for determining the amount of bases. Strong acid titrants give more precise results due to a more distinct endpoint. Azeotropic or “constant-boiling” hydrochloric acid (roughly 20.2%) can be used as a primary standard in quantitative analysis, although its exact concentration depends on the atmospheric pressure when it is prepared.[23]

Hydrochloric acid is frequently used in chemical analysis to prepare (“digest”) samples for analysis. Concentrated hydrochloric acid dissolves many metals and forms oxidized metal chlorides and hydrogen gas, and it reacts with basic compounds such as calcium carbonate or copper(II) oxide, forming the dissolved chlorides that can be analyzed.[20][21]


Other local Tioga County water pollution news

Shell’s Tioga County Methane Geyser Captured On Video

By Scott Detrow / State Impact / June 28, 2012 | 3:43 PM

A group called the Respon­si­ble Drilling Alliance has obtained video of the geyser of water and methane that shot out of the ground last week near a Shell nat­ural gas drilling site in Union Town­ship, Tioga County. Due to the geyser, methane bub­bling into a nearby creek and gas spot­ted in a pri­vate water well, Shell issued a vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion request to peo­ple liv­ing within a mile of the well. The Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion is inves­ti­gat­ing the incident.

The video was taken on Tues­day, June 19th. RDA’s Ralph Kis­berg said the per­son who filmed the footage wants to remain anony­mous, but iden­ti­fied one of the men speak­ing in the video as Can­ton Fire Chief Kim Jen­nings. In a brief phone inter­view with StateIm­pact Penn­syl­va­nia, Jen­nings con­firmed that fact.

“I’ve never seen a geyser like that,” he said.

The flume grad­u­ally decreased in size over the course of the week, as Shell flared off gas at three nearby well clus­ters to bring down sub­sur­face pres­sure. Com­pany spokes­woman Kelly op de Weegh said the flow has now com­pletely stopped.

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