Abstract

The production of hydraulic fracturing fluids (HFFs) in natural gas extraction and their subsequent management results in waste streams highly variable in total dissolved solids (TDS). Because TDS measurement is time-consuming, it is often estimated from electrical conductivity (EC) assuming dissolved solids are predominantly ionic species of low enough concentration to yield a linear TDS-EC relationship: TDS (mg/L) = ke × EC (μS/cm) where ke is a constant of proportionality. HHFs can have TDS levels from 20,000 to over 300,000 mg/L wherein ion-pair formation and non-ionized solutes invalidate a simple TDS-EC relationship. Therefore, the composition and TDS-EC relationship of several fluids from Marcellus gas wells in Pennsylvania were assessed. Below EC of 75,000 μS/cm, TDS (mg/L) can be estimated with little error assuming ke = 0.7. For more concentrated HFFs, a curvilinear relationship (R2 = 0.99) is needed: TDS = 27,078e1.05 × 10−5*EC. For hypersaline HFFs, the use of an EC/TDS meter underestimates TDS by as much as 50%. A single linear relationship is unreliable as a predictor of brine strength and, in turn, potential water quality and soil impacts from accidental releases or the suitability of HFFs for industrial wastewater treatment.

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