Energy. Environment. Economy.

Hydrochloric Acid’s Role In The Fracking Process

Wikimedia Commons

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.


  • Mike Knapp

    Hydrochloric acid, in its concentrated form, is extremely nasty stuff.  I’ve laid on the ground wishing for death after catching a whiff while cleaning pools or balancing water chemistry… If even a tiny amount of it was leaking, people on site would immediately be aware. I have to think that there is some foul play involved here.  You don’t just “accidentally” dump 5,000 gallons of acid on a site. 

    Also, hydrochloric acid is used by most public drinking water facilities to lower the pH, as the chlorine that is injected as a disinfectant causes the water to rise in pH.  Its used in public swimming pools for the same reason.  It is also the main constituent in your stomach’s digestive acid.  Diluted?  You drink it, you swim in it, your body literally produces it…Concentrated?  Stay the hell away!  Interesting fact though:  The HCL used in swimming pools is twice as concentrated as that which is usually used in the gas industry. 

    -Former Swimming Pool Nerd/Current Gas Drilling Nerd

    • Robyn Su Miller

      Gas drilling nerd my hind foot. How about Michael S Knapp VP of public relations for MDS energy development, a shale drilling company. The playbook is always the same…put these propagandaists front and center on every last media outlet. For the SUV industry their grand poobah’s mantra was “Fuel efficiency kills.” (For real, look it up.) Knapp’s mantra is “the majority are in favor of fracking” as he pimps Heartland Institute’s propaganda film on fracking. Um, no, and the funding for that film was exposed.

  • SphenicAtaraxy51
  • SphenicAtaraxy51
  • Hugh K

    Just another story about the industry’s lack of care. Assurances of safety are just not true.

  • Michael Dineen

    The State may tout its regulations as “the most stringent in the country”, but they won’t stop events like this from repeatedly occurring.

  • Marianne Waldow

    “Hydochloric acid is regarded as a hazardous substance and should be
    dealt with appropriately. This substance can have severe adverse health
    effects. If it comes into contact with the skin, a person can get
    burned. If it gets into the eyes, a person can be blinded. Inhaling
    the acid can result in damage to the nose, throat and lungs.

    This substance can have negative effects on the environment as well.
    It is likely to kill plants if it comes into contact with them. Although
    the acid is diluted with water, it can have toxic effects if it is
    introduced into bodies of water that support human or animal life.” from

    Even seeping into the water supply in a diluted state can be bad. And remember, there are many more toxic chemicals in fracking water. Since Dick Cheney finagled secrecy for the gas industry regarding the exact chemicals used, who knows what the effects of combined chemicals might be.

    Dangerous to be spilled in concentrated form and dangerous to be allowed to get into the water supply in diluted form.

    M Waldow

  • Beth Kelley

    This reminds me about Halliburton truck spewing hydrochloric acid in August in White Deer Twp.

    Every day you hear about another spill, another blowout, another accident…

  • Chucker

    Drive a car and you are going to need fuel. Need fuel and you are always at risk of a chemical spill. It’s been going on since the first well at Oil City and it will go on even when we have converted from oil to natural gas to hydrogen. We need to think of how we are going to handle the accidents (accept, avoid, ameliorate), not how to stop exploiting the relatively clean energy in the Marcellus. You got zero chance of stopping fracking, just because it came east. There are 318 million people in the US and roughly 318 million of those live outside Bradford county. None of them are going to accept higher fuel prices, which is what loss of the Marcellus will cause.

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